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Continued...

Maybe you’ll understand me a bit better if you know my past. I mentioned I had never heard of Bluegrass music in childhood but I DID indeed grow up listening to music. All kinds of it! I LOVED music. Even as a small child I would write down all the lyrics to songs so I could sing along with my records, eight tracks, cassette tapes, and eventually CD’s. When I picked up the guitar I would find simple songs with few chords So, my opinion is all you’ll be getting. Here is it: I LOVE MUSIC. All kinds. All genres, all keys, all tempos, I would listen on a boat and I’m pretty sure I’ve listened with a goat somewhere nearby. I do so LOVE this thing called music. Have I already mentioned this? Sorry. So the real scoop is I love to sing great music. Sometimes it doesn’t fall within the parameters of Bluegrass. While I love the idea of keeping it pure….I also love to switch things up a bit. I also believe that there is a way to keep the integrity of the song alive and full of life even though it wasn’t birthed in Bluegrass.

In Detour we have an unwritten rule of sorts. If any one member really hates a song we don’t play it. There is some wiggle room there. Since I am the only female in the band I usually get my way. I know all the women out there reading this sensed my sarcasm in that sentence and all the men thought I was serious. I was kidding folks. As a band we play songs we really like. Songs with lyrics that resonate with us, melody’s that sound good to our ears and a feel that can lend itself well to Bluegrass. We then take some time experimenting with different compositions until everyone falls into a sort of balance. Sometimes it takes longer than others. It’s important to find something that keeps the original intent of the song but adds our “Detour” stamp to it as well. I believe that if you really love a song you also have a certain amount of admiration and respect for it as well. You have a desire to want to “make the song proud” so to speak. The lyric is equally as important to Detour. We like to find a story or lyric that we can connect with or that still relates to those we come into contact with.

I have always loved to search for music covers that give a new spin on an old song. One of my all-time favorite singers, and someone I believe knew how to REALLY do this, was Eva Cassidy. Her versions of, “Tennessee Waltz”, “People Get Ready”, “Fields of Gold”, “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain”, Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Wonderful World” all continue to be some of my favorite versions of these songs! The Isaacs are another great example of how it’s done right. Their current album contains a cover of “Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days” that was the first my kids had ever heard. When The Judd’s version came on the radio my middle son asked, “what’s wrong with this song?”. We had a similar conversation after they found out Mountain Heart did not originally record “The Ride”. I then had to give a little lesson in music history and go to therapy to deal with my guilt of failing as a mom. My son had never heard the original versions of those songs? Shame. On. Me. I know there are many other examples of amazing musicians who have covered tunes and brought new life to them but I am pretty sure they aren’t going to give me a daily spot here on RX Bluegrass so I’ll conclude.

I am a pretty simple person so this is surely over simplified but here’s my take: The key to cover tunes is choosing the songs we love. The songs we connect with. On Detour’s last album we included, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” &”The Letter”. On our newest album contains a cover of “I Can See Clearly Now”. I cut my teeth on this music. My parents were always playing oldies either in the car or on our stereo at home. I remember getting the “Time Life” collections in the mail. I would put the tape in my little cassette player, lay my head down on the floor with my ear next to the speaker and listen to my heart’s content. Those songs still resonate with me. They remind me of growing up, of spending time with my dad who has since passed on, of dancing around the living room with my sisters. Music nearly always has emotion tied to it for me. I think it does for others as well. I do believe there is a way to cover the tried and true, well written, well-loved tunes and keep the song intact. It happens when we love the music.



THE DAILY GRIST…”Never eat more than you can lift.”…Miss Piggy

Picnic
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Monday, April 21, 2014


I hope you all had a great Easter yesterday. Whether or not you celebrate the holiday, you just gotta love this time of year. There’s a reason why most cultures celebrate spring holidays like Easter. It’s a time of renewal. A time to shake off the restricted mobility of winter and get out into the outdoors again to plant new crops or whatever else you might need to do outside.

The scholars among us might be on spring break right now. But Easter is not really a day off for most of us Americans since it falls on a Sunday when we’re not working anyway. But it still feels like a holiday and lots of us choose to take a few days off work at this time of year to enjoy the springtime.

If you happened to be in Italy today and went out for a bike ride in the countryside, you would see lots and lots of people eating their lunches outside in the open air. The Italians call the day “Pasquetta”, Little Easter, and it’s a day for picnics or for eating the leftovers from your Pasqua feast outside, al fresco, in the back yard. When I rode my bike through the Italian countryside on Pasquetta years ago, I was invited to many a backyard family feast. “Mangia, mangia!”, they would say. And with food and wine ad libitum every ten miles or so, I needed to eat. Then I’d pedal on to the next feast, a bike rider’s version of heaven.

On the hillsides that day, I noticed many groups of people carrying baskets for picnics in the open air. And the impression has always stuck with me that the day after Easter makes a perfect day for a picnic. Ever since that experience, I honor the Italian tradition of La Pasquetta. If I can’t make a picnic for lunch, I always try to at least grill outside for dinner so I can remember that wonderful day I spent riding through the hills of central Italy.

I’ll have to work today but you can bet if the weather is nice, I’ll break my bad habit of eating my lunch at my desk. I’m sure I can spare the time in my hectic day to stroll fifty yards out into the open air and enjoy my lunch in the radiant sunshine! And I encourage you all to do the same.

I’ll save my real picnicking for the weekend after Easter. That’s the weekend of the CBA Fall Campout. Great timing CBA! I’ll be cooking outside and you’re all welcome to join me. At least until the food runs out and then we’ll get some more. One thing that won’t run out is the music and good friendships reestablished. Hope to see you all there.

CBA Music Camp 2014: What’s That Sound?
Geoff Sargent, CBA Music Camp Liaison
Peter Langston, CBA Music Camp Director
Sunday April 20, 2014


When I was growing up, one of the first philosophical questions we liked to tease each other with was the old question “If a tree falls in the woods with no one to hear it, is there a sound?”. As with most good philosophical questions, the answer should be “it depends” (I will be happy to elaborate on this at length during Grass Valley if bribed with the appropriate libations).

Fortunately, this philosophical head banging just doesn’t work for music camps and festivals since the only reason those exist is because of the folks that attend. When I ask “what’s that sound”….your answer should be “music camp”. So where am I going with this? It’s easy. We have some more room in music camp for folks that love to make sounds, especially sounds of the bluegrass variety. The way music registration usually works is there is a rush of folks enrolling when we open registration, and that kind of slows down a few weeks later, and then right before camp, it fills up. In case you are worried about what might be still open, here’s the skinny on some of the classes that still available.Last month we profiled Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, who are teaching a double Harmony class, two teachers and two assistants, and I suspect the assistants are going to be pretty good at harmony singing as well. There are still about 10 spots left for this class so don’t miss the opportunity to learn from two of our most extraordinary, accomplished California bluegrass professionals. I predict this class will fill, so now is your chance! I might have to see if I can sneak away and sit in on this one (just don’t tell Peter and Janet).

The CBA and Music Camp are committed to increasing the presence of Old Time music and the Old Time classes that still are open are Masha and Geff’s Old Time Band Class and Luke Richardson’s Old Time Banjo. I profiled Masha and Geff last month and now I get to give a little about Luke. Luke’s music rolls with the arresting and subtle beauty of the hills around his family's farm in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. With an intuitive ability to match the fiddle, Luke manages to push the music along with grace, ease and remarkable drive. His banjo playing has earned him a National Old Time Banjo Championship and a handful of blue ribbons. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, he is an in-demand old-time musician. In this class students will to add to their arsenal of right-hand maneuvers in order to compliment the different bowings of old-time fiddle. We will also explore many of the less conventional tunings such as "Reuben D" or "Sandy River Bell Tuning" and talk about how and why these settings compliment some tunes more than others. The goal is to familiarize ourselves to the banjo and recognize its vast capabilities as a leading and accompanying instrument.

Some of you might know, and some wish that you didn’t know, that I play that ungainly beast called the resophonic guitar, better known as dobro to most of the world. Greg Booth is teaching dobro 2 this summer, which still has openings. I have a vested interest in seeing this class fill up because we need more dobro players. Frankly, I think there are too many guitar players in the world and some of them should step up and learn to play an instrument that you can actually hear in a jam, and give those bloody fiddle and banjo players some sonic competition! Greg is an awesome dobro player and one of the worst kept secrets around is that he is also an awesome peddle steel player. Playing dobro and banjo with the Kathy Kallick band for the last 5 yrs, Greg makes his home in Alaska where he had a long career playing steel guitar in clubs as often as 7 nights a week. All those years of making music contributes to a tasteful dobro style that is unique, and I can attest to his virtuosity. Greg won the Rockygrass dobro contest in a challenging field on the one year anniversary of his taking up the instrument. After taking advanced classes at the Rob Ickes Resosummit, Rob invited Greg to join the faculty where he has taught for several years as well as other music camps around the country. The YouTube channel of Greg's dobro playing videos recently passed the million views milestone and continues to accelerate, being viewed around 1600 times a day. You can check out his YouTube vids at www.youtube.com/user/aksliderdobro.

Finally….. Mandolin I is, shall we say, undersubscribed. If you are new to the bluegrass scene and don’t recognize John Mailander’s name, I can guarantee that at the end of music camp you will not only recognize his name, but in a few years time you will be recognizing his name at a whole bunch of major musical events, and on the radio, and you will point him out to your friends and proclaim “he was my Mandolin teacher” back when!

Registration opened at noon on February 7th, 2014 and over half of the music camp slots have been filled, so get your web browser over to our Music Camp website at http://www.cbamusiccamp.org to register and to get more breaking news. If you have other questions, and want to make sure the class you want is still available, please contact us at info@cbamusiccamp.org. Keep on jamming and we hope to see ya'll at Music Camp this summer June 8-11 at Grass Valley, CA and maybe we’ll see you at Winter Camp in 2015!


Bluegrassian Questionnaire with Snap Jackson
Today's column from Cameron Little
Saturday, April 19, 2014


(A continuing series of interviews loosely based on the “Proust Questionnaire” - bluegrass style!)

Snap Jackson. A man of many hats. Sure, we hear the rumors of the near-legendary collection of eclectic hats that Snap wears with old-school style. But there are the other hats he wears with equal savoir-faire: multi-instrumental musician, singer, songwriter, voracious reader, artist, photographer, and devoted family man. It is rumored that Snap’s one-and-a-half year-old son Milo will continue the family dynasty as a burgeoning hat aficionado in his own right, whose collection will eventually eclipse his dad’s.

Snap and his cohorts in crime, the Knock on Wood Players, are masters of blurring the line between performer and audience. Regardless of the size of the venue, the band creates an intimate relationship with their fans, and it’s guaranteed that they’ll be out in the campground until the early hours (the very very early early hours) jamming with those very same fans. The band has already released two well-received albums, and the anticipation is building in advance of their third record which will be recorded live by Paul Knight [Paul Knight Sound] at the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival in May.


1. What are you listening to right now?
I'm really diggin' the Tom Adams/Michael Cleveland album, 'Live at the Ragged Edge'. It doesn't get any better! Also listening to a lot of Nina Simone.

2. What's your greatest fear?
Something bad happening to one of my kids.

3. What was your first instrument and when did you get it?
I started on the trumpet when I was 4 and the piano when I was 6. I also played the alto sax from 4th to 8th grade.

4. What bluegrass event or recording first "blew your mind"?
John Hartford's 'Mark Twang' album. It's the reason I play the banjo.

5. What is your greatest extravagance?
My hat collection. I got a problem. [Yep. Everyone who knows Snap concurs on this one.]

6. What's your deep, dark bluegrass secret?
I play the ukulele...shhhh.

7. When and where were you the happiest?
My college years in San Francisco were pretty magical times. These days I'm happiest close to home with my friends and family.

8. Who is sitting there in your dream jam?
John Hartford, Roy Huskey Jr., Earl Scruggs, Josh Graves, David Grisman, Carter Stanley, Ronnie McCoury, Noam Pikelny, the list goes on and on!

9. If you could hear any non-bluegrass tune done bluegrass, what would it be?
You're asking the wrong guy. You need to ask Brian Clark [the wizardly bass player for the Knock on Wood Players] that question.

10. What song hits your heart every time?
'Mr. Bojangles' by Nina Simone. Gets me every time.

11. What bluegrass memory makes you smile?
I would have to say our very first California Bluegrass Association Spring Campout in Turlock, California. We met a lot of very talented, generous, and kindhearted people that day, many of whom we now consider some of our dearest friends on earth. I will always look back on that day fondly.

12. If you died and came back as a person or thing, what would you want to be?
I think once is enough!

13. What is your most treasured possession?
Family photos.

14. What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?
"Work hard, be kind, give thanks." - My dad.

15. Do you have a memorable on-stage gaffe?
None come to mind. Maybe I’ve blocked them all out!

16. What’s the strangest place you’ve performed live?
Maybe not the strangest place, but the strangest gig I ever played was two days after major surgery, after I was told by my doctor to take two weeks off from playing entirely. I sat in on banjo with Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin [at the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival]. I'm not one to take any type of medicine, and let's just say that the pain killers were working VERY well. I barely remember being up there on stage that night! After the show everyone said that I did great! Haha!

17. What’s one thing you’d like people to know about you?
That I come from a very large, loving, and supportive family.

18. Do you have a favorite music joke?
As a banjo player I'm usually part of the joke.

19. Do you have any interests, talents, or hobbies besides music?
I love to draw, paint, and take photos (http://instagram.com/snapjackson).

20. What is your motto?
"Timing is everything."


Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players’ music is available at most online digital retailers.

For details and tour dates for Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players:
http://www.knockonwoodplayers.com/

And here’s a link to Deering Banjos:
http://www.deeringbanjos.com/

(Cameron Little is an eighteen year-old bluegrasser who very soon hopes to get the name of Snap’s milliner.)


Dear Friends
Today's column from Don Denison
Friday, April 18, 2014


It doesn't seem possible that it has been a month since I last posted a column. I hope that I get this written in time for it to appear as scheduled.

I promised last month to write about some of the events and people in the recent past that I thought helped make the California Bluegrass Association and our Fathers Day Festival what it is today.

This morning I finally began the huge task of sorting through Suzanne's files that she accumulated during her tenure as editor of the Bluegrass Breakdown and as Executive Director. I was only able to make a general sort as there is so much material to go through. I found photos, final drafts and samples of schedules, festival rules and information, notes taken about her proposal for our first camp out, copies of the Breakdown from the 80's, a photo of Rose Maddox with her "instant band", a photo of Buffalo Bob and his Buffalo Butter Band performing at Grass Valley in 1978 I could probably go on for hours describing the huge mass of archives that need to be catalogued and perhaps in the case of photos at least, scanned. I'll not bore you all with all the details, but I can tell everyone that the thing that I noticed most, was the number of different people that have been involved in the CBA and our events through the years. We are an organization that was formed to preserve and promote the music we all love so much, but what struck me even more strongly has been the number of wonderful people that have for a short while, or for years and years, have devoted themselves to that task. I know that after the first few years, the focus for Suzanne and I was on the people involved in making our events and the CBA successful. The music was always the reason we have the CBA, but the wonderful friends we made from performers to someone who worked the gate as a runner have been a bonus, the fact that we have been able to attract and retain such high quality friends and volunteers is what has made the CBA a successful organization.

When Suzanne and I first became involved as officers, there was a very primitive organization in place backed up with very well written By-Laws. Bit by bit and position by position, the CBA began to take on its unique structure. It seemed that when one key person retired or just burnt out, there was always someone new to step in, take over the position and make it even better. I spent the better part of the day just trying to put things in some sort of order, and realized that it would take me many many days just to get everything in shape to turn over to Mark Hogan in some kind of order so that he can properly store it.

Hopefully one day we will have archives that are fit for researchers to work with. I know that when I was active as a Board Member and as a coordinator, I was so wound up with getting the job done that I didn't think at all about preserving documents, photos, posters etc. I guess now I need to spend some time getting this huge mass of material organized so that you all can use it if you all need to. I discovered at least two file drawers full of photos collected for the Breakdown and other needs, I hope I can remember who all those people are.

Oh yes! To every one who has helped over the years in any capacity, I give you all my sincere thanks. I am stunned by the number of wonderful friends that have made the CBA what it is today.

Your Friend

Don Denison



THE DAILY GRIST..."Bluegrass Festivals are like Stealth bombers…”

If Nobody’s Listening, is the Grass Still Blue?
Today's column from James Reams
Thursday, April 17, 2014


There’s a raging debate going on in the world of bluegrass between traditionalists and futurists. But bluegrass isn’t going to make a sound if nobody’s listening a generation from now.

In 2009, a study by Simmons Research for IBMA revealed that 79% of the bluegrass audience was 34 years of age or older, and a quick examination of that report shows that the median age of today’s audience is 48-50 years of age. But where are their kids? Next time you go to a bluegrass festival or concert, look out over the crowd and see if you can find a teenager or family with little kids. Most times it’s like playing “Where’s Waldo?” in a blizzard.

Almost every festival touts itself as “family-friendly” and the tickets are usually budget friendly too. Bluegrass festivals should be as crowded as a Chucky Cheese on a Saturday. So why aren’t they? Why aren’t young families flocking to our festivals by the SUV-full?

In these days of video games, smartphones (a matter of opinion), leaping learning games, etc…it seems like kids are being further isolated and insulated from social gatherings. They “live” within the shell of the electronic device du jour and rarely venture out even for family meals. Their eyes glued to tiny screens, they shuffle through the day like video zombies.

And music has joined the video game feeding frenzy. Luckily e-games featuring fake instruments have been replaced in recent years with real instruments, but it’s still no match for the hands on experience of playing an instrument with a group of friends or family. Yet the popularity of these games proves that kids and young adults are still drawn to music like wi-flies to the Internet. Now, I’m not saying that technology is bad, I’m just saying that things seem to be a bit out of balance between isolation and socialization for our young people.

What can we do to break these kids out of their selfmade shackles and into the wide blue yonder of bluegrass? How can we make the bluegrass experience more friendly and inviting than the latest electronic gizmo?

People are still social beings and bluegrass music is a social thing — it’s meant to be played by a group. We can used this instinctive longing to belong to get people out of their plastic-plated world and disembodied peer groups and into the flesh and blood body of music. Grandpa plays the harmonica? How cool is that! Aunt Betty can whistle like songbird? Who knew? Next thing you know dusty fiddles, like skeletons, come out of the closet and the family is actually laughing and having a good time — together. This music of ours is a unifying force to be reckoned with. So how do we get our foot in the door?

I think we start by recognizing that sound isn’t the future of bluegrass…kids are. We can holler about music styles ‘til we’re blue in the face, but if the next generation doesn’t embrace bluegrass then we’re just blowing smoke. And where’s the best place to find kids? The schools. There are lots of great articles out there on the Internet about how to get bluegrass into schools. For teachers, one of the most successful tactics involves simply bringing your musical instrument to school. That’s how Anni Beach got JamPak started in Arizona.

Bluegrass associations can be a great resource for drained teachers and bled-dry school districts. Almost every association has some kind of youth program and should be reaching out to schools to bring in their groups for performances. Just think of the reaction at a “show and tell” featuring canjos and washtub basses! Remember, what kids experience today will be the voice of bluegrass in the future.

And speaking of associations, you don’t have to be a musician to join a bluegrass association. Most of these organizations need every single able and disabled body they can get! Even if you can’t get out much anymore, your dues will help fund programs like school concerts, youth groups, and instruments for the underprivileged.

Jamming is one of those rare art forms that embraces everyone, no matter their age or skill level. It’s like a rollercoaster, exciting and fun to watch, but even better if you can be a participant. Seasoned jammers have a great opportunity to share their knowledge with a beginner or wannabe musician that may be too intimidated to join in. Watch for those fringe-feeders, engage them in conversation, break that unbroken circle and encourage them to pull up a chair. Pete Wernick at DrBanjo.com has some great suggestions about jamming with newbies (http://www.drbanjo.com/instructional-anewdirectionforteachingandlearningbluegrassmusic.php). And jamming isn’t limited to festivals and assigned meeting places. When the weather’s nice, sit out in your front yard and pick (please pick responsibly!). It won’t be long until you’ll have more than pigeons for an audience and dogs as backup singers.

Bluegrass festivals need our help. I’m not talking about the mega-festivals here, but the local, small-town events that are the bread and butter for many bands. The younger generation just isn’t going to sit still and listen for hours to stage performers that move around less than an opera singer and don’t even have a dancing purple dinosaur. Some kid friendly-activities are needed at these events. How about clogging classes? Musical note hopscotch? Hog calling contests? Cake walks, square dancing, go fish ponds…the list of possible events is only limited by the volunteers that will staff them. Tapping into organizations like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, local churches, Rotary Clubs, VFW, Moose Lodge, PTA, even Fire Departments and Police Departments can provide the much needed manpower to make a festival into an all day family event that families will actually attend.

A friend of mine recently commented that bluegrass festivals are like the Stealth bombers of the music world. They sneak into town and out again before anybody knows they’ve been there. Most promoters just don’t have the budget or the time to cover all the bases. The next time a bluegrass festival is in your area, help get the word out. Pass out flyers and posters wherever you go (make ‘em and/or print ‘em off the website). Call your local radio stations and ask about the festival. If they don’t know about it, tell them! Talk up the festival to waitresses, teachers, hairdressers, barbers, grocery store and hotel clerks, even send a Letter to the Editor of your local paper. If you’re even minimally handy with tools, whip up a batch of canjos to take to the festival. Most can be made for about $5 and a variety of instructions can be found on the Internet. And, if you’re a musician, volunteer to lead a festival workshop geared to kids…after all, who’s going to be buying your CDs 20 years from now?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I’m talking about Internet-based meetup groups or discussion groups in your area. If there aren’t any bluegrass-based Internet groups near you, then start one! It’s pretty painless to do and why not use it as an opportunity to connect with a young person in your life. You might find out that your neighbor down the street has been hiding a bluegrass addiction! And, where 2 or 3 are gathered…you have a bluegrass jam!

We all have a part to play in the future of bluegrass. And, with our help, the next generation will still be listening and it’s gonna sound great!

I want to know what you’re doing to promote bluegrass music. Send your ideas and comments to me at james@jamesreams.com. I’d love to hear them.



THE DAILY GRIST..."In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” - Margaret Atwood

Hope Does Spring Eternal
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Ah, spring is here! We know this because the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Old Time Festival occurred. We know this because the baseball season has begun – and don’t think Bill Monroe himself wouldn’t be following that action. And we know this because the annual CBA Spring Campout is nearly upon us (April 22-27).

There are a lot of smart people in the CBA, but I think the folks who conceived of the spring and fall campouts are among the smartest. The bluegrass event year is a majestic tapestry of things to do, from festivals, to concerts, to jam sessions and campouts are a very appealing part of the mix.

This is fairly easy to understand. Concerts are fun – it’s always enjoyable to see great bluegrass music being performed right in front of you, and the concert set lengths allow you to get to know a band a bit better than the 50-minute festival sets allow. But they aren’t quite as social or participatory as jams or festivals.

Festivals are terrific – I know I’m stating the obvious here. It’s like Disneyland for bluegrass fans, or a 3 ring circus – with many more rings. There’s a plethoraof things to do, all going on at once. You can watch acts play on stage, sit in other people’s lawn chairs, eat food, jam, attend workshops. The only drawback is, no matter what you do, you’re missing something – there’s just so much going on. (This is a pretty minor drawback, I should mention!)

Jam sessions are fun, of course – they’re at the heart of bluegrass culture and one of the keys to the music’s appeal. I think it’s fair to say that most bluegrass fans also play and/or sing. And bluegrass is very portable – a jam could spring up anywhere at any time (I’m planning on jamming at lunch today, as a matter of fact!).

Jam sessions are so fun that some geniuses at the CBA dreamed up the notion of the organization hosting BIG jams twice a year (or more). These events combine the excitement and broad social appeal of festivals, but eschew the featured entertainment (for the most part). If you go the spring or fall campout, you ARE the entertainment.

The events are located so that a large percentage of members can attend without too long a drive, and camping means you can stretch out the social and music intercourse over several days. You can, in other words, “pick until you drop”, which is the stated intention of many bluegrass jammers.

Of course, the CBA ensures there are other fun things to do at the campouts, like dinners, and impromptu contests, and occasionally a featured musical act or two, but it never gets frantic. This is befitting of the mood for the spring and fall seasons.

In one, you’re winding up towards a season of fun. In the other, the season is winding down. They are both wonderful events – you’ll build up memories in your heart and callouses on your fingers!




THE DAILY GRIST..."Youth is wasted on the young.”?Oscar Wilde

I’ll be a bluegrasser as long as I live
Today's column from Jack Kinney
Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I plan on playing bluegrass my whole life. I’m sure that it will seem like no time at all when I am 60 years old, complaining about how the kids are better than me and remembering when I was like them. It seems to get closer and closer every day, but is it so certain that I will be able to play instruments and sing into old age?

Professional athletes can expect that they will not be able to continue their career into old age, or even into middle age for some sports. They appreciate their youthful physical ability and make the most of it while they can. As a musician, however, I’m comforted by the feeling that I still have a long career ahead of me. This sometimes dampens my ambition to network with new people and play bigger shows. Age rarely limits a bluegrass performer’s success. Unfortunately, this positive characteristic of bluegrass music also panders my toxic habit of procrastination. Maybe the feeling of racing the clock like a young athlete would cause me to make different career decisions.

Sometimes though, it seems that I should not feel so comfortable. Health, like a bass player, isn’t fully appreciated until it’s gone. Playing an instrument and singing requires a level of physical ability too. It’s disheartening to think about the struggles that Tony Rice has endured with his condition of muscle-tension dysphonia, preventing him from singing with the iconic voice he once had. Playing a bluegrass instrument also requires the utilization of arms and fingers. With a common shoulder injury, I would have a difficult time holding a banjo. As a young adult, it’s easy to feel physically invincible. Maybe competitive snowboarding and racing dirt bikes will have bigger consequences someday than I expect.

It is possible that someday I’ll be wishing I had been a more cautious young man, and I plan on making noise with a banjo and fiddle as long as I can. I’ll enjoy the time I’m granted in good condition, and be ready to accept what time brings me. One thing I can be sure of is that I’ll be a bluegrasser as long as I live.



THE DAILY GRIST..." If I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”—Unknown

An Interview with Disaster
Today's column from Chuck Poling
Monday, April 14, 2014


(Editor’s Note: The second Monday Welcome is normally supplied by Rick Cornish. Although it was assumed that despite his separated shoulder injury, which has essentially left him one-armed for a couple months, Rick would be writing his column with the use of Dragon, a voice recognition dictation piece of software. Then, this very morning, Dragon went absolutely buggy, (example…half-way through transcribing a sentence perfectly, the software just starts typing out words and phrases and even whole sentences whose origins are unknown,[“possible true diphtheria at the Waldorf Astoria and served with tatter tots and cruel, stark binary ambition unless otherwise noted, and so on”]. So, until Nuance Communications sends a patch to fix its currently out of control Dragon or until Rick’s wing is back in use, an archived welcome will have to suffice. This one, written almost exactly two years ago, represents some of Chuck Polings finest work. RC)

Writing for the Bluegrass Breakdown has provided me access to many of my favorite bluegrass artists. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Mac Martin, Dan Tyminski, Junior Sisk, Mike Compton, the Gibson Brothers, and other notable performers.

I take pride in my writing and appreciate all the nice feedback I get from readers. I research my subjects before interviewing them to better understand them and also to avoid asking the same questions they’ve been asked a thousand times before. Interviewing is a skill that I’ve developed over the years and which I first learned back in the late ‘70s as a journalism major at the University of Mississippi.

And it was there at Ole Miss that I did my first and biggest bluegrass interview ever – with none other than the greatest banjo player in the world, Earl Scruggs. And I blew it.

I was in my junior year and was a reporter for the Daily Mississippian. When I heard that the Earl Scruggs Revue was coming to campus I went straight to my editor and told her that I was doing this interview – end of story. If anyone else was interested, tell ‘em to come see me and be loaded for bear, because I’m doing this interview.

Impressed by my determination – and probably mindful that there weren’t too many bluegrass fans on the staff – the editor easily agreed. I walked out of her office feeling like a tiger. Grrrrr!

The day came and I was prepared with my list of questions, my notebook, and my cassette recorder, outfitted with new batteries to avoid any mishaps. I checked in with the student committee that organized the concert to make sure I’d have backstage access. I received my very first lanyard with the coveted pass. I felt so cool.

The show was fantastic. While I enjoy Earl’s picking most on his classic Flatt and Scruggs sides, the music he played with the Revue was crazy good foot stompin’ fun. Earl was in his fifties and just at the top of his game and was having a great time travelling around the country – and the world – playing with his sons. The cozy confines of the auditorium reverberated with the band’s amped up bluegrass boogie, and the piercing sound of hundreds of excited fans letting loose with the rebel yell.

After several encores, I was ushered into the dressing room. Earl, his sons Gary, Randy, and Steve, along with other band members were toweling off and probably enjoying the afterglow of a kickass show before an adoring crowd in an excellent venue.

The student coordinator bade me follow and him and introduced me to Earl and his sons. And that’s when I lost it. I was standing a couple of feet away from the man who changed both the history of bluegrass music and of the banjo. Earl nodded and quietly greeted me. I babbled and I drooled. He sat there and looked at me. I looked back.

Earl Scruggs had many talents, but the art of conversation was not among them. He typically let his banjo do the talking. After a couple more minutes of me hemming and hawing, I remembered I had a notebook with the questions I intended to ask him. So of course I start with the lamest, he’s-already-answered-this-one-a-thousand-times question I could have possibly asked. “Uh, I heard there’s a rumor that you and Lester might get back together again. Is that true?”

Ever the gentleman, Earl politely corrected me, “No, that’s just talk,” he said. I persisted. Earl declined to take the bait. Randy, meanwhile, rolled his eyes and chuckled. Realizing that I’d just done something incredibly stupid, I was in a state of near panic as I tried to think of a follow up to a line of questioning that had just died on the vine. I desperately flipped through my notebook looking for a question, any question, that might get the interview back on track.

Randy jumped into the breach. “I guess you want to know where we’re playing next, right?,” he said. I grabbed at his suggestion like a drowning man grabs a lifeline. “Yeah, sure,” I squeaked. “OK,” said Randy, “but maybe you want to turn your cassette recorder on.”

“Uh, yeah, right,” I stammered, feeling like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. From then on, Randy pretty much handled both sides of the interview, providing the questions and the answers, drawing Earl in just enough to give me a couple of decent quotes. After about twenty minutes, we wrapped it up, and I left the dressing room and walked a short distance over to the Daily Mississippian office to write the story.

Somewhere down in my garage I’ve got the clipping. It’s been many years since I last read it and, let me tell you, it hasn’t got any better with age. The experience taught me a lot about preparation and professionalism. Now, before I conduct an interview, I make sure to have all my ducks in a row. And instead of being star struck, I try to maintain a professional attitude. I figure I’m just doing a job to provide bluegrass fans with a different perspective on their favorite artists.

I always dreamed of having another chance to interview Earl, though I never did. I was convinced I’d get it right the second time around. At least would have remembered to turn on my recorder.



THE DAILY GRIST…” My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that today I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”…Ronald Reagan (while testing a microphone in 1984)

Microphone Ballet
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Sunday, April 13, 2014


The hard working sound engineer may be one of the most under-appreciated people in Bluegrass music. Most people go to a Bluegrass event and enjoy the music without even thinking about how much work it takes to make the listening experience clear and accurate for everyone in the audience. Lots of us only notice the sound engineer when they haven’t done their job quite right. Like if a feedback problem blasts our ears with a loud buzz. Then we see a guy or a gal slink up to the stage and adjust a cable or a mic or something. If a song is in progress, they often crawl around as low as possible to get the problem fixed.

That’s one version of the microphone ballet. But my favorite form of microphone ballet is completely different. You rarely see it these days. It’s becoming something of a lost art and Bluegrass is one of its last strongholds. The poetry of motion involved with this vanishing skill makes for a very entertaining stage show. And it reminds us, as we watch, of the traditions and history of the Bluegrass genre. After all, the microphone that is the focus of this ballet played a huge part in the popularization of Bluegrass and Old Time music.

I’m talking about the condenser microphone. After Bell Labs invented it in 1916, it took off and allowed radio and record listeners to listen to bands like the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, etc. etc. When the bands played out on tour they hooked up a single microphone, connected it to an amplifier, and wowed audiences with the fabulous new technology. The band members huddled around the single microphone like a warm fire and if a couple sang a romantic duet, they had to be cheek to cheek in order for the audience to hear both of them properly.

For a Bluegrass band, the lead singer would stand closest to the microphone but would make way for an instrumentalist to play their instrument right into the microphone when it came time for a solo. Three part harmony required three carefully placed singers sharing a single electronic conduit.

Nowadays condenser microphones are pretty much just used for studio recording. They’re so sensitive to sound that most stage bands prefer to use dynamic microphones with monitors (for the musicians to hear the mix of their fellow musicians). Each musician and instrument is individually wired with a pickup or mic and the sound engineer pushes dials up or down to get the right mix. At least that’s about as much as I understand about it. Anyone who has ever played in a band and tried to set up their own sound for a gig understands how difficult it can be to get a good sound with all the complex variables involved.

Trust me, it’s much better to be out there in the audience hearing all that sound than worrying about it! I appreciate good sound mixing. If I can hear the softer sounds of the guitar on a solo, that’s good. If everything is too loud and my ears can barely stand it (an all too frequent occurrence), that’s bad. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard loud audio in a room the size of a shoe box. Come on, these are acoustic instruments! If someone could hear Pavarotti without a mic at La Scala, why do I need to hear a banjo at 120 decibels when I could probably hear the whole band just fine with no amplification?

The stage choreography involved with using a single mic is complicated too, but oh, so much fun to watch. With a condenser mic, you don't need a speaker monitor for each musician. They hear each other just as they would if they were playing in a jam at the bass player's home. These are acoustic instruments after all! And it's a good thing they don't have the monitors because that would just get in the way of the ballet.

The last time I saw single mic live sound mixing done well was by the Del McCoury band at the Raven Theater here in Healdsburg about five years ago. Those guys worked their tails off to dance up to the microphone on cue at the right time. They played every request I heard called out from the audience, whether it was their own tune or not. And the musicians did their own mixing just by using their body positioning. I’ve never heard any better sound. Old school. Microphone Ballet.


Friends
Today’s column from John A. Karsemeyer
Saturday, April 12, 2014,


Melody Player likes acoustic guitars. Wait, that’s not quite correct, because her feelings transcend like and find themselves in the love category; that category which contains many different kinds of love. Love, in this case, is more than just a four letter word.

Years ago in a youthful land, where she now no longer lives, Melody bought her first guitar. It was and still is a pink and black Silvertone arch top guitar with “f” holes in the top, from Sears and Roebuck. It was love at first sight, which was quickly followed by more love at first pluck. She doesn’t know why she was so attracted to the guitar when she first saw it. “It’s a mystery,” she occasionally says out loud, even today. “Just like my brother likes to raise blue-tick hounds, and I don’t. And he doesn’t like to play a guitar, and I do, and I can’t figure out why. But I just accept it.”

But love, as you all know, often fades like a brilliant sun that slowly goes down behind a majestic mountain at the end of a summer’s day. Sometimes love fades and is gone, and sometimes it fades and stays around without its initial intensity. The flame burns lower and lower. And it changes into a different kind of love from when the genie was first let out of the bottle. But your wish to make it come back as it first was doesn’t come true because the genie has disappeared. Even so, it is still there, softly lingering. And you embrace it for what it is and for what it becomes as the years come and go. Or maybe you don’t.

Melody still loves that first old guitar that reached out to her years ago. But ten years after she got it temptation grabbed her fast and hard when she saw an amazing guitar in the window of a local music shop as she was walking to the grocery store. She did a double take and stopped dead in her invisible tracks on the sidewalk. Her feeling of knowing better was quickly discarded as she opened the door of the music shop and walked in.

As she got closer to the curvaceous wood and wire six stringed American beauty she could see the inscription on the headstock of the guitar, and she read it aloud, “C.F. Marvin.” The music shop owner couldn’t help noticing her eagle-eyed fix on the guitar, and walked over to her.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“Sure,” she said. “Can you tell me something about this guitar?”

As the shop owner’s personal excitement began to grow he replied, “Well, this guitar comes from a long line of guitars that first started in 1833 by a gentleman with the name of Carl Frankly Marvinsky. He came to the United States in the early 1800’s from Poland, and when he checked in at Ellis Island his name got changed from Marvinsky to Marvin. At first he wasn’t happy about the name change, but eventually he came to like it. And when he made his first guitar while living in the USA he put his new name on the headstock. He thought it sounded more American, and he wanted to embrace the Americana concept as much as possible. He did have a dog named Barkinsky, but he didn’t change it because he felt that you have to have some souvenirs that remind you where you come from. That was way back then, a long time ago, when he arrived in New York City, and set up his first guitar shop. Some years later he left New York and pulled into Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in the Lelow Valley region of the state, where the guitar shop still exists today. Most people don’t know about it because the Marvin family likes to keep a low profile. The small but outstanding shop and its highly skilled twenty guitar makers are now overseen by his great-great-great-grandson C.F. Marvin IV. Little did old Carl Frankly Marvin know back then that just five miles away over the hills another small struggling guitar maker had taken up residence, and that it would develop into one of the world’s leading guitar factories that produce acoustic guitars today. In fact there are many acoustic guitar players who own at least one of these other brands of guitars. Quite a few people get the names of these two different guitar makers mixed up.”

“Wow, that’s a heap of information. So can I give this guitar a try?” Melody asked as she managed to contain her erupting enthusiasm.

“Sure, go ahead. I’ll be over at the counter if you have any questions, and I’ll check back with you later. Please take all the time you need,” he said.

After about a half hour of playing the guitar Melody asked the shop person, “When was this guitar made?”

“It’s about 20 years old, but the original owner took good care of it. No abuse, no cracks, no repairs. It’s in great condition,” he said.

After looking at the price tag on the guitar she stood up and said, “I’ll have to think about it,” and then she left the guitar shop. “That’s the best guitar I ever played,” Melody thought to herself. Little did she know that the guitar would take up residence in her mind after she left it behind. She got into her car, thought about it some more, and said, “Now that is a YOLO guitar if I ever saw one. No doubt about it, a You Only Live Once guitar.”

At two o’clock the next morning she awoke from a dream in which she was standing outside of the guitar shop, peering through the window, and seeing the guitar again. After Melody was awake for two minutes a feeling overwhelmed her. A warm glowing feeling that can only be described as a guitar playing woman’s intuition. “I’m going to get that guitar,” she said to herself. Her feeling and decision were so strong that she could not go back to sleep. The guitar store didn’t open until ten o’clock, but the nine cups of extra strong coffee over the next two hours insured that she would not go back to sleep, as the darkness outside her bedroom window went into slow motion.

Melody was too excited to eat breakfast. As the sun was coming up through her front window she began her preparations. She called the guitar store on the telephone before it opened and left a message. “This is Melody Player. Please hold that Marvin guitar that you have in your store front window, and please don’t sell it to anyone else! I’ll be at your shop exactly at ten this morning.” After a quick shower and another cup of coffee she got dressed and sat directly in front of her old grandfather clock and waited. “Tick tock, tick tock.” The three hour wait until the guitar store opened seemed like three days. It was a thirty minute drive from her home in the foothills to the guitar shop, and when nine-thirty finally rolled around she rushed out of her front door, got into her 1941 restored Ford with the big Chevy engine, and hit the gas pedal hard.

Too hard, in fact. Twenty minutes into her drive she heard a siren, looked in her rear view mirror, and saw the flashing red lights of a black and white that was following her.

“In a big hurry?” the policewoman said.

“Well yes I am. I’m rushing to get something that I really want, and I don’t want to miss it. I know you would think it silly if I told you what it was.”

“Okay, try me,” the policewoman said. Then Melody explained to the officer about the guitar. Turns out the officer was a guitar player herself, and let Melody go with just a warning (long story short).

As Melody arrived in town a half hour later than she expected and got out of her car right in front of the guitar shop, she looked at the display window. And as she did her heart sank. “The window is empty!” she shouted, causing people on the sidewalk to do a double take as they focused their attention on her. “I’m going to need to see my therapist on this one,” she thought to herself. As her anger boiled up inside her she opened the door to the shop and went in to give the shop owner a piece of her mind.

Before she could utter any words the guitar shop owner spotted her and said, “Oh I’m glad you’re here. I got your phone message and pulled the guitar out of the window.” Suddenly a bad day turned into a good one. That day the guitar went to its new home with Melody.

After that guitar acquiring experience, the days, months, and years went by. As time passed, Melody’s house seemed to grow smaller and smaller. Musicians do what musicians do, and some musicians find themselves acquiring first one, then two, three, more, and then more musical instruments until they have a room full. Melody’s once large sized guest room is now filled with ninety-nine guitars, and there is barely enough room to get to the window to open or close it. When people occasionally visit her they are overwhelmed with what they see. She has built stands that neatly hold all of her guitars and keep them up off of the floor to prevent them from absorbing cold in the winter and heat in the summer. Melody also installed mechanical devices that keep the room at a constant temperature of 70 degrees, with 50% relative humidity, so that the guitars will not be ruined by extremes of heat or cold, and too low or too high relative humidity in the air. Just for good measure she always keeps the guitars in their cases unless she is playing them.

Melody was fourteen years old when she got her first guitar. But as it has been said, “That was then, and this is now.” And as she occupies the now, in her mid eighties, Melody frequently asks herself and others, “Where have all the years gone, and how did they go so fast?” Many changes occurred during those years that affected Melody’s life, and consequently her outlook on life. Her acquaintances frequently ask, “Melody, why do you have so many guitars? “Well I don’t know. It’s just feels right,” is her usual response. After a while Melody began to frequently ask this question of herself. Recently, during the last of many restless nights without an answer that satisfied her, she decided to do something about it.

“Hello, my name is Doctor Ima Fixya, nice to meet you,” the mental health therapist said to Melody as they both sat down in comfortable chairs and faced each other with a six foot distance between them. “How can I help?”

“Well I don’t know if you can,” Melody responded. “You see I have a problem, or maybe it’s not a problem, but it has been on my mind for quite a long time now.”

“How long is a long time?” the therapist asked.

“Well,” Melody answered, “I have a collection of guitars that I’ve been accumulating over the last sixty or so years. Sometimes I think I have a problem, and sometimes I think I don’t. A couple of people I know think it’s a problem. But I really don’t know if it’s a problem, and that’s why I am here to see you Doctor Fixya. For the last six months or so it’s bothered me the most.”

“Okay Melody, just how many guitars do you have?”

“The last time I counted I had ninety-nine guitars,” Melody said.

“I see Melody, ninety-nine guitars. Is this a guitar shop that you own where they are for sale?”

“Oh no, doctor. If I had a shop it wouldn’t be a problem for me, but these are my personal guitars. I don’t know if I’m a hoarder, a collector, or just plain greedy.”

“I understand Melody. Did someone give you all these instruments, or did you just buy them?”

“I bought most of them, and some I inherited.”

“Okay, and has your spending money on guitars made it a problem in other areas of your life?”

“A problem? What do you mean by a problem?” Melody was not quite sure what the therapist was asking.

“What I mean is has your spending caused you to not be able to pay your bills, or buy groceries, pay your rent, buy clothes, and things like that?”

“No, no, nothing like that Doctor Fixya. I worked for forty years, paid off my house, and then retired with a fairly good pension. I’m not in debt.”

“I understand Melody. And how does your husband feel about you buying all of these guitars? I see you are wearing a lovely wedding ring. Do you think he has a problem with it?”

“My husband? He thinks I belong in a Looney bin for musicians who can’t stop buying instruments. He used to say that if I bought one more guitar he was going to leave me. And you know, at that particular time I was okay with that. A week later I bought another guitar. But he didn’t leave. He was bluffing. That’s probably because he can’t cook, doesn’t like to shop for groceries or his own clothes, and has a dependent personality disorder. He really didn’t want to leave his mother fifty years ago to marry me, but I convinced him he should do it anyway? Do you think I made the right decision?”

“Well that was a long time ago Melody, and we’re here to focus on your issue of guitars,” said the doctor of the mind as her own curiosity about Melody’s guitars gained speed.

“Okay, right doc, I agree.”

“So Melody, tell me some more about your life. Specifically, about your relationships with parents, children, relatives, and friends.”

“Why do you want to know about that doc? You just said we’re here to focus on my GAS. Whoops, I should explain, that means Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.”

“Just stay with me on this for awhile Melody. Okay?”

“Okay doc. You see, I’m now eighty four years old, and in pretty good health. Arthritis has not taken my hands. Not yet. I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand in the card game of life. Everyday is a pretty good fight since I’m armed with the right prescriptions. Early on I had many friends, acquaintances, relatives, lovers, and three children. As you know, I’m married. But I’ve been married four times before. If you’re wondering about those former husbands I have to say that they were all good men, except one. But as so often happens sometimes life whacks you in the head like you were standing too close behind four legs and a tail of stubbornness and you get mule kicked. Two of my husbands were killed in two different wars. One perished in a car accident. And the last one left me for a nineteen year old girl when he was forty. He told me he was having a mid wife crisis.”

“Hold on Melody, don’t you mean mid life crisis?”

“No doctor, I mean mid wife. Actually I should have said mid wives crisis. That no good womanizer! And as for my three adult children, I don’t even know where they are. They haven’t written or called for years. Everybody I know tells me it’s not my fault, that I was a great mom. Maybe my adult children all have brains that make them beyond independent. As a retired neuroscientist I can say that I think that is a possibility. I had ten brothers and sisters, but they are all gone now. And these days I really don’t have many friends left. The mailman flirts with me all the time, but he is ninety years old, so why bother? He told me he used to work for the Pony Express, but I don’t believe him. And anyway like I said, I’m married now. At my last high school reunion there were only fifteen of us left out of a class of three hundred. I didn’t recognize any of them. That was really depressing. So, that’s about it doc.”

“Thanks for sharing your journey Melody. I know it rekindles quite a few memories for you that may be upsetting as you look back. But tell me, do you remember when your guitar collection started to grow? Let’s say after your second or third guitar?”

“Well let’s see, let me think. Now that I look back I think that it was just after the death of my first husband. Yes, that’s exactly when it was.”

“Okay that’s good Melody. So do you think that there was some kind of link or relationship that may have motivated you to buy another guitar at that time?”

“Could be, I never thought about it like that,” Melody replied.

“You know Melody, I think we may be on to something here. Can you think of any other time in your life when your guitar buying had a relationship to a loss in your life?”

“Let’s see, let me think. When my older brother disappeared and never came back, I, yes I did. I bought another one. That’s right. I definitely remember that now. Okay, and when my parents passed, well, okay, that was a big one. Now I remember, I got two guitars that time. And when all of my older brothers and sisters went on to their heavenly reward and I was the only one left, I bought, well I bought, I can’t remember now. Probably it was more than one.”

“So where did you get all these guitars over the years Melody?”

“The internet doc. Used to be I could only go to one guitar store that existed even half-way near where I live in the Sierra foothills, but now you can go all over the United States and the world to shop for guitars. Most places will give you a forty-eight hour approval, so you can return the guitar if you don’t like it. You just have to pay the cost of shipping it back to where it came from.” Just then images of a number of her guitars jumped into Melody’s mind, and she just sat there with a blank stare.

“Where are you right now Melody?” her therapist asked.

“We’ll, I’m just, just thinking about, about, wait a minute. Okay I get it. I have a traumatic event in my life that usually involves a lost relationship with a person I hold dear, and then I buy a guitar. It’s clear to me now. I get it, but what does it mean Doctor Fixya?”

Now wearing a big smile the therapist said, “Okay, here’s what I think it means Melody. When you lose somebody in your life you have a void, an empty place in your life, a new hollow spot in your soul. And as you’ve figured out today that’s when you buy a guitar. But as you know, buying a new guitar doesn’t replace the person you’ve lost. On the other hand, buying a new or different guitar is in fact some kind of replacement, on an unconscious level. Think about it. A guitar isn’t human, but in this case it’s a good thing. A human dies, a guitar doesn’t. As the years go by a guitar may get injured, and it may end up with a broken neck, a cracked top, or somebody might shoot it with a gun. But here’s the thing. That injured guitar can usually be fixed. It may not look exactly the same, but it will play just as good, and sound even better as the years go by. And another thing, a guitar won’t leave you. You have to leave it, by selling it or giving it away. When you own a guitar it can become a permanent thing in your life. It gives you joy all of your life, if you play it and take care of it. And it will outlive you. In the grand scheme of all things musical, a guitar, in a certain way, becomes your friend, and there is a relationship that happens when you first get it that develops as the years go by. You take care of it, and it takes care of you, by fulfilling a certain need in your life. There will always be human losses in a person’s life, but at some level a musical instrument like a guitar helps fill the void. At least that is my professional opinion Melody.”

“Okay Dr. Fixya that is starting to make some sense to me. I’ll think on that. So I’m not crazy after all? Do I have to be in therapy for years and years to deal with this?”

“No Melody you’re not crazy, and even if you are, it’s a good kind of crazy. And no, you don’t have to come back for another session, unless you want to. But there is one more thing. I know that you life has a certain emptiness because you only have relationships with a few folks, and all of your relatives are gone. So there is one thing I’d recommend you do, especially since you are a guitar player and singer.”

“What’s that Doctor Fixya?”

“Well Melody, I just happen to know that the California Bluegrass Association has a big four day bluegrass music festival coming up this year in Grass Valley in the middle of June. In addition to all of the great bluegrass bands playing on stages, there are hundreds of people who have music jams in their campsites where you can go and play and sing. These jams are friendly, and you’ll gain instant acceptance just because you are a musician. And you might even make some new friends there to play music with for years and years to come after the festival ends. Just get on your computer and go to the California Bluegrass Association’s website and look for the events they have listed.” Melody wondered how Doctor Fixya knew about this bluegrass stuff, but that thought quickly flew from her mind.

“Wow, that’s great doc. You’ve helped me a lot today, and I thank you for it. What do I owe you for the therapy session today?”

“Don’t worry about it Melody, this one’s on me. No charge. When you go home today revisit your wood and wire friends and feel good about having all of them around.”

I’m talking about the condenser microphone. After Bell Labs invented it in 1916, it took off and allowed radio and record listeners to listen to bands like the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, etc. etc. When the bands played out on tour they hooked up a single microphone, connected it to an amplifier, and wowed audiences with the fabulous new technology. The band members huddled around the single microphone like a warm fire and if a couple sang a romantic duet, they had to be cheek to cheek in order for the audience to hear both of them properly.

For a Bluegrass band, the lead singer would stand closest to the microphone but would make way for an instrumentalist to play their instrument right into the microphone when it came time for a solo. Three part harmony required three carefully placed singers sharing a single electronic conduit.

Nowadays condenser microphones are pretty much just used for studio recording. They’re so sensitive to sound that most stage bands prefer to use dynamic microphones with monitors (for the musicians to hear the mix of their fellow musicians). Each musician and instrument is individually wired with a pickup or mic and the sound engineer pushes dials up or down to get the right mix. At least that’s about as much as I understand about it. Anyone who has ever played in a band and tried to set up their own sound for a gig understands how difficult it can be to get a good sound with all the complex variables involved.

Trust me, it’s much better to be out there in the audience hearing all that sound than worrying about it! I appreciate good sound mixing. If I can hear the softer sounds of the guitar on a solo, that’s good. If everything is too loud and my ears can barely stand it (an all too frequent occurrence), that’s bad. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard loud audio in a room the size of a shoe box. Come on, these are acoustic instruments! If someone could hear Pavarotti without a mic at La Scala, why do I need to hear a banjo at 120 decibels when I could probably hear the whole band just fine with no amplification?

The stage choreography involved with using a single mic is complicated too, but oh, so much fun to watch. With a condenser mic, you don't need a speaker monitor for each musician. They hear each other just as they would if they were playing in a jam at the bass player's home. These are acoustic instruments after all! And it's a good thing they don't have the monitors because that would just get in the way of the ballet.

The last time I saw single mic live sound mixing done well was by the Del McCoury band at the Raven Theater here in Healdsburg about five years ago. Those guys worked their tails off to dance up to the microphone on cue at the right time. They played every request I heard called out from the audience, whether it was their own tune or not. And the musicians did their own mixing just by using their body positioning. I’ve never heard any better sound. Old school. Microphone Ballet.

As Melody Player was driving her used but reliable pickup truck from the big city to her rustic cabin in the pines in the northern California foothills she felt a peace sweep over her. She now felt good about her decisions over the years to buy all of her guitars. And in these days of people charging each other for every little thing that they do, Melody couldn’t quite understand why her therapist hadn’t charged her a dime for the therapy session. Little did Melody know that Dr. Fixya secretly owns two hundred guitars, and that it took her two years of intensive therapy for her to realize that that is okay.

That night Melody was drifting off into her personal land of dreams, where she often becomes young again. During her last conscious moment she heard herself say, “Growing old is like being imprisoned for a crime that I didn’t commit. But at least it’s tolerable if I have ninety-nine guitars in my cell.”






THE DAILY GRIST…"Sunlight yellow is just another shade of gray to the colorblind…"--Unattributed
A vacation without music
Today’s column from Cliff Compton
Friday, April 10, 2014


It was odd, taking a vacation without music. Music has taken me everywhere I’ve ever wanted to go. All the postmarks of my travels have included stops where the guitar case is opened and the music played. If I go to visit the inlaws, maybe it’s a stop at the grange hall to play with the rouge valley drifters, or maybe an afternoon at loaves and fishes, pickin’ with Homer and his friends, or at the mobile home park with those old C & W guys that play that Hank and Hank music, or the camp meeting jamming in Portland behind the old tabernacle with old friends from all over the world. And I build my year around festivals playing miscellaneous stages, and all night jams, and it don’t really matter what state I’m in or what time of year, the music is always close, and that guitar is an introduction to some of the finest people and best times that I’ve ever had the privilege to share.

So traveling without it is discombobulating. I’ve never before had to figure out what to do with my hands. They were always holding an instrument, itching to play.



So this trip to Washington D.C. was odd. Thought I’d give it a rest, see what the else the world had to offer. I don’t know… it sure has a lot less color.

It was a bit of a somber occasion anyhow. I went back to see the wall. The Vietnam memorial. There’s that song, “touch a name on the wall.” I touched a name on the wall. I’m not ashamed to say I cried. And anyway…

Washington D.C. is not a city given to music. It’s gray and lifeless. A city given to beurocracy and dullness, particularly in April, when even the cherry blossoms seem washed out and functionary.

As I walked along the city streets looking at the gray buildings and the statues of long forgotten people who turned out to be less important than they thought they were, I saw a gold tinted statue standing proudly outside of some mausoleum looking building. The brass plate said he was a Financier, a big money man, and I was thinking to myself, only Washington D.C. would erect a statue to a bean counter. And speaking of money, I passed the department of commerce, and marveled to think that it was still open considering that commerce, in this moment of time, seems to have fallen into ill repute in the eyes of the ruling class, and I don’t know…. I sure would have liked to have heard a guitar.

And as I wandered by the marble monuments and the tired tourists, I wondered where the birds were. They must be there somewhere…singing something. But I didn’t see a one, except for inside the airport at New York, where four birds flew around looking for crumbs and chattering up a storm.

But I rode the tour bus, passed the Watergate and mayflower hotel and the tidal basin bay where the nations other dirty work has been accomplished. And I limped through the Smithsonian’s’ dutifully taken snapshots of whatever I thought I should. And I took a picture of an old plow, and thought about all them bluegrass songs about farmers and plowing and mules, and I saw a hundred and fifty year old sign signifying the location of Mt. Zion Baptist church, and I thought about all that wonderful black gospel music
That I’ve played down through the years.

But there’s one thing I really enjoyed in this old and tired city., It was the statues of men on horses. Not the men, necessarily…the horses. I took a picture of the rear end of one. Somehow it seemed appropriate, and in context.

As I was leaving the rental car agency to go back to the airport to leave, I got on the transport bus with some other folks heading out of town. There was this one fellow with a guitar case.
A new friend. A return to civilization. Back to the land of butterflies and wildflowers. And the clouds rolled away.


THE DAILY GRIST..."Strange, when you come to think of it, that of all the countless folk who have lived before our time on this planet not one is known in history or legend as having died of laughter.” -- Sir Max Beerbohm

It don’t get any better than Vern & Ray
Today's column from George Martin
Thursday, April 10, 2014


Never before have I offered a Web welcome column that already has been published in the Bluegrass Breakdown, but I have been such a Vern & Ray fan for nearly 50 years that I decided this piece I did for the April CBA paper would be the exception. Another reason is that Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick will be taking their Tribute to Vern & Ray out for a pre-festival spin Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m. at St. Cyprian’s Church on Turk Street in San Francisco. This is part of the CBA Spring Jubilee that Chuck and Jeanie Poling have put together in The City. Should be a great show. I’m going to be there, for sure.

??I first saw Vern & Ray at the Cabale Creamery, a little coffee house in Berkeley that predated the Freight and Salvage by a few years, probably in 1966. I saw them on a Friday night and went to work early the next morning and wrote a very positive review of them for the Richmond Independent newspaper, where I worked at the time. My new wife and I went back to see them on Saturday night and I brought them a few copies of the paper. I remember they seemed so surprised that someone would publish a story about them. For my money the Examiner, Chronicle and Tribune should have been there as I’m sure Vern & Ray were the best live music around the Bay that night.
In later years they played the old Freight on San Pablo Avenue every month or two, and I’m sure I saw the majority of those shows. When I ran the Bluegrass Under the Stars concerts at Woodminster Amphitheater in (I think) 1973 I tried to book them, but those shows were run on a co-op basis with the bands and Vern & Ray didn’t want to play on speculation. ??I notice the CBA has about 2,500 members now and CBAontheweb.org gets 7,000 or so hits each day. So this is for the people who don’t see the Breakdown:


A highlight of this year's Fathers Day Festival certainly will be A Tribute to Vern & Ray with Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick on the main stage at 3:55 on Saturday.

The festival runs June 12-15 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, and features Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice, the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, the Lonesome River Band, the Deadly Gentlemen, the Roland White Band, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, the Kathy Kallick Band, the Foghorn String Band, and more.

Laurie and Kathy, two of California’s most accomplished and beloved singers of the present day, will do a set of the music of Vern Williams and Ray Park, the most accomplished and beloved singers of their day, as well as being the pioneer musicians who jump-started bluegrass music in the Golden State.

“For many of us bluegrass pups on the West Coast in the early and mid ‘60s, Vern & Ray were our connection to ‘the real thing,’” remembered High Country leader Butch Waller. “We were pretty isolated out here. Vern and Ray were not only the genuine article and a source of inspiration but were very supportive of the efforts of local pickers to learn to play the music.”

The two were both born in Arkansas, not far from each other, although they did not meet until each had moved to the Stockton area. Ray had played country music on radio and TV with a band called the Happy Hayseeds and had made one country record on Capitol which reached number 40 on the country music chart. Ray used to say, modestly: “My record sales started out slow and went down from there!”

The two began jamming together as early as 1956, played dances in a country context in 1958 and soon decided to form a dedicated bluegrass band. The band played at the Dream Bowl north of Vallejo and on the Oakland TV show of disc jockey Black Jack Wayne, who ran the big dance hall. The first lineup was Clyde Williamson, guitar, Luther Riley, banjo, Ray on fiddle, Vern on mandolin, and various fill-in bass players.

Later Ray played mostly guitar, and the banjo player most associated with the group, Herb Pedersen, joined the band.

It is hard to overstate the importance of Vern & Ray to California bluegrass. The local bluegrass community was emerging from the folk music revival, listening carefully (one might say obsessively) to Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers on records, and getting to hear Vern & Ray play the authentic music by people who had grown up with it, at such places as the Cabale Creamery in Berkeley and later the original Freight and Salvage Coffee House.

“When I ‘discovered’ the San Francisco bluegrass scene in the early 1970's, Vern Williams and Ray Park were the acknowledged masters of the genre.” recalls Laurie Lewis. “They had precious few recorded songs but would occasionally come into the Bay Area from their homes in the Sierra foothills to sing together at the Freight and Salvage or a local folk festival.

“I came along at the tail end of their performances together, and only saw them a handful of times before they went their separate ways, but the raw power of their voices, combined with Ray's ferocious rhythm guitar and occasional fiddle and Vern's straightforward mandolin-playing made me an instant fan. It was a strong flavor, to be sure, and not everyone's cup of tea, but it was the local bluegrass scene's closest tie to the ‘real deal.’

“We were incredibly lucky, I think.” Laurie said. “I used to hear Ray at fiddle contests throughout the Central Valley, where he was without a doubt the most powerful fiddler. But he would often disqualify himself in the judges' eyes by insisting on playing "The Road to Columbus" as his tune of choice, arguing that it was neither a hoedown or a waltz. He was technically right, of course, but the judges would only accept a two-step, rag or the occasional jig in that category. Ray had a beautiful bow arm, and played with a combination of grit and finesse that I personally loved.”

Kathy Kallick also has strong memories of the duo. “I was lucky enough to come of age when Vern & Ray were available to us on a regular basis,” she said. “While they had stopped performing together by the early ’70s when I came around, they did a reunion set at the first Grass Valley Festival in 1976. It was awesome! Together and individually they shaped the consciousness of anybody playing bluegrass in CA. at that time.”

The band made a four-song extended play 45-rpm record in 1960 for Starday. Their next recording effort, “Sounds from the Ozarks,” was released on the Old Homestead label in 1974. The stress of making and releasing this record (which they reportedly never were paid for) resulted in Vern and Ray parting ways and ending the band.

Vern soon put together The Vern Williams Band with Keith Little on banjo, Vern’s son Delbert on guitar and Ed Neff on fiddle. “For awhile, I held down the coveted job of playing bass with them,” Laurie said, “and those occasions remain some of the highlights of my career. It was the best seat in the house for hearing those blistering vocals, and just grooving with the band.”

One of the things that distinguished Vern & Ray, and later the Vern Williams Band, from other bluegrass groups was their repertoire. “They included many songs from Stephen Foster, Ray's originals, and old Carter Family songs,” Laurie recalled. “They didn't ever just play the top-forty bluegrass hits, though they could. Kathy and I have long plumbed that well for material, and we started planning this tribute to California's bluegrass masters years ago.”

“I played and sang with both of these fine men, and inspiring musicians,” said Kathy. “I loved to sing with Ray Park. His resonant, mellow voice, and supportive manner was lovely. And he always made me feel like I sounded so good! He had a distinctive fiddle style, smooth and fluid, with an edge.

“While I did a bit of jamming with Vern, at parties and such, his influence was broader than just that. I sat and watched him play with his band countless times, at festivals and small venues. The show was always the same: comfortable and casual, not much showmanship, or ‘entertaining,’ just the jaw-dropping, thrilling, razor-sharp, laser beam tenor voice. Perfect. His singing was always full of feeling, never overly emotive. Straight from the heart with no artifice. Never overly ornamented, or fancy, just pure.”

“When Laurie and I first started singing together, we went to Vern & Ray for cool song choices right away,” Kathy said. “We were so fortunate to be able to see those guys live, hear their jokes, tall tales, and amazing music. On the day Vern passed, we got together and cried, and sang through much of the Vern and Ray songbook. That was the beginning of our ‘Tribute,’ which will last for the rest of our lives.

The writer is indebted to Matt Dudman (he of Matt and George and their Pleasant Valley Boys) for many of the facts in this story. They were taken from a history of Vern & Ray that Dudman wrote and which can be found on the CBA’s web site, or by doing a browser search for “Vern & Ray.”


The Best Instrument of All
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I was unable to finish my research for today's article, so it'll have to be NEXT Wednesday's article.

I have had occasion to hear tons of music being performed over the past few weeks. Martinez is a terrific music town, with music everywhere you turn, and there have been concerts and jams all over the place as well, with a variety of genres.

A theme bubbles up when I observe so many performances – the human voice is at the heart of music’s appeal much of the time. On a language level, it’s what narrates the story of the song, of course. But it’s also a contributor to the tonal palette. And thirdly, it’s a major contributor to the emotion of the performance. If vocals are a triple contribution, they’re also a triple challenge.

First and foremost, singing in tune, for most of us, isn’t all that easy. It takes concentration, practice, and sometimes, some specific training. If you can’t sing in
tune, the performance will be diminished. The listener’s ear doesn’t demand perfect pitch, but you need to be in the neighborhood of the notes, or everything sounds sour.

Then there’s the words. Bluegrass has a huge selection of wonderful songs with very interesting lyrics. Who can memorize all of these? What if you mix the verses up, or skip one? The story is the thing – some songs are not linear in their storytelling, so mixing up verses is no big deal.

Other songs tell a specific story from beginning to end, and mixing up verses or skipping them destroys the power of the story. Throw in some onstage nervousness, and recalling lyrics can be pretty tough!

Lastly, the emotional aspect. Have ever heard a performance where the singer was spot on, pitchwise, and knew the words, but the song lacked any punch? Singing a song is not just reciting words in tune. The singer has to inhabit the story, and be persuasive the listener. Some folks are concentrating so much on hitting the notes and remembering the words, they miss this part.

Singing is inherently fun – almost everyone does it, even before they learn to talk. And using singing to express emotion is just as instinctual. If we pursue music, we naturally want to play and sing better, and work on it. Just don’t let emotion take a back seat to precision! I’d rather hear a singer feel the story, even if pitch wanders a little!


Road vs. Studio Bands
Today's column from Ted Lehmann
Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Irene often works for bands at festivals selling their merchandise while they're onstage or for longer, if they want her to stay. Over the years she's become adept at finding the CD on the rack containing specific songs the band has sung during their set. Often this means she sells older CD's on the basis of one song. Sometimes fans point to a CD asking her, “Is this the band I heard up there?” Sadly, she sometimes has to say that the band has changed, or that a studio band was used in the recording. In the past several years, the sales of band CD's have cratered. Formerly, bands toured in support of their latest CD. Today, it's more frequent that bands record to support their tour, as revenues from live performance have increased to surpass their recording incomes.

Recently I heard an agent who works with a top emerging band in the bluegrass and Americana world emphasize the importance of having the band reproduce accurately and consistently the precise renditions it had recorded in its live performances. However, I've also heard a number of bluegrass musicians say they never play the same break in exactly the same way as well as asserting the boredom that trying to do so would engender. Also, bluegrass bands frequently change personnel, which leads to different sounds, both vocal and instrumental. How does one square this circle? Since there has been revolutionary change in the recording industry over the past two decades, the parameters of both recording and performing have undergone a distinct change. A successful performance requires considerably more showmanship than merely reproducing the sound heard on a recording. A recording can never precisely reproduce either the sound or the immediacy of a live performance. Therefore, while the recording of a song should complement the live performance, it can never reproduce it, not even on live performance recordings.

Two models of recording seem to be at work here. In what I heard referred to as the “Country Model,”studio musicians are hired to back up the featured performer for a recording. Road musicians are hired to tour with the artist, seeking to reproduce the sound on the recording as accurately as possible. There are a couple of reasons studio (session) musicians might be used. Because of their experience in the recording studio, they can “get” the song more quickly and be prepared to provide the kind of performance the recording requires in fewer takes, thus saving both time and money in the making of the CD. Time is money...so the conventional wisdom says. However, even with the finest of session musicians, a question arises as to whether they capture the vibe and passion a song worked up on the road through months of previewing that the road band can create. Another reason for using session (or guest) musicians is to add luster to the names of performers on the recording. There are a number of well known session musicians whose mere name on the CD may have the power to increase sales. The current practice of recording segments on their home system and emailing them to the producer may, however, reduce the immediacy and emotional impact of such playing.

The second model requires the road band to be the recording band. Bluegrass is known as a improvisational music. A tune is expressed or played and the musicians play off each other to enhance and relate to each others' interpretations. In this way, it's like jazz performance. One characteristic of such performances is that they change as the interpretation matures and develops through repetition and the further development of understanding both in the lyric and the tune. Many bands spend weeks or months on the road and in practice sessions developing songs they have carefully chosen and or written, developing an interpretation that grows. Even in covers, they insert their own understanding into the song, seeking to make it simultaneously recognizable and fresh. Bluegrass aficionados know and recognize side musicians, and appreciate their quality.

Some bands seem to be more effective as recording bands while others shine best in live performance. I must say the dynamics to this still manage to escape me. In some cases both recording and performance are exciting, even when they seem to me to be quite different. The Infamous Stringdusters strike me as such a band. We attended an outdoor concert of theirs at the Whitewater Training Center outside Charlotte, NC last spring. It was engrossing and lively as the power of the band, its volume, and the excitement they generated in the audience was palpable. The other day we listened to their new recording, “Let It Go.” We were both aware of their lyricism as well as able to understand the lyrics of the song, without being overpowered by the volume. The experience of the recording and the performance were quite different, but both satisfying. On the other hand, I have noticed that some bands we enjoy immensely in performance come across as flat, even listless in recording. I can't say whether this is attributable to the setting, the engineering, the lack of or presence of an audience or whatever else. But it does provide a very different experience. Fine recordings made before a live audience may help to bridge some of this distance.
As the technology of distributing recorded music continues to change in the years to come, the dynamics of the recording/performance relationship will change, too. New venues and ways to deliver live performance will continue to emerge. I hope that live performances in spaces where the audience and the performers are in the same place will continue to be important, but who knows. Meanwhile, the issue of making recordings that feel alive will continue to challenge engineers while the hard work of presenting previously recorded material in a familiar fashion will also remain. It's an exciting and demanding time.

--
tlehmann@ne.rr.com
www.tedlehmann.blogspot.com


THE DAILY GRIST:
“One of the many benefits of the CBA is the relationship we get to have with all the CBA kids!” - Darby Brandli


How to raise a child, bluegrass-style
Today’s Column from Mark Varner
Monday, April 7, 2014


Dear friends,

If there’s one thing we do around here it’s obsess about stuff. We are, after all, an association built upon adherence, maybe even fanaticism, to the proposition that the music we love deserves to be both preserved and promoted. Most people are happy just to listen to music on their ipods, but not us!

But what’s this? Three Welcome Columns in the row about “education”? Yeah! We’re obsessive! I hope you got to read my son Marty’s column on Saturday. We are so proud of him! And of course Marcos’ Sunday column about writing was excellent, as always.

When we decide to do something it is done with gusto and an eye on the long term. Our desire to include the younger generation(s) in our passions and in our time has been a decades long CBA endeavor. Kids On Bluegrass is a long running and highly visible component of our efforts and it is what most folks think of then they think of CBA’s youth programs. But we did not stop there and we keep finding more ways to get young people into music.

It’s been fourteen years since we started an educational CBA Music Camp to run just prior to the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival. In that time many youngsters have attended Camp, many on scholarships donated by generous CBA members. The kids, based on their abilities, study shoulder-to-shoulder with adult students under the finest teachers/artists in America. In fact we hire young uber-talented teachers like Molly Tuttle to really spice things up. But CBA Music Camp is also home to FunGrass, a musical instruction program for very young children, run by Kathleen Rushing. Kathleen is a retired Kindergarten/Music Specialist and is known for her fun Bingo Schmingo Music www.bingoschmingo.com. She and her very able and wonderful volunteer team will not only spend time making music with these children, they will get them on stage for the Music Camp’s grand finale: the student concert.

It’s not unusual for an event like the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival to have a place for children to play and do crafts in a supervised setting, but our KidFest, also run by the much-loved Kathleen Rushing takes on a musical dimension, among other fun activities. KidFest will be located behind the audience area of the big stage, behind the handicap RV Parking. Activities are designed for ages 2- 12. Parents need to accompany their children, as this is not day care. Tentative times will be from 11:00 a.m - 3:00 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the Father's Day Festival.

BTW! Kathleen is looking for enthusiastic, kid friendly volunteers for KidFest. Volunteers will need to submit full name, DOB, SS#, and Driver's license number for screening as we are very serious about qualified and appropriate members for this team. Please contact Deb Livermore deblivermore@gmail.com, or Kathleen Rushing, kafween@mac.com to be a part of this way fun group!

Last year we really jumped the shark, creating a music camp just for kids who are on the cusp of becoming for real musicians: The CBA Youth Academy. Here’s what Youth Program Coordinator and CBA President Darby Brandli has to say about the Academy:

“The 2nd Annual CBA Youth Academy is ready to roll out for 2014. We changed the name from Bluegrass Camp for Kids to the CBA Youth Academy. We changed the days to Wednesday through Saturday to ensure four full days of instruction and fun for the participants. We have reserved stage time on the Pioneer Stage for an end-of-camp performance Saturday afternoon at 3P. We started raising scholarship money in 2013. We have younger siblings of attendees from last year registered with their older “experienced” siblings and ready to go! There is room for a few more young people and there is still scholarship money available.

“Providing a Music Camp for our young people was a dream realized last year and while the camp was a huge success we have made some changes this year to make the camp even more successful. This is a real “music camp for kids” with instrumental instruction, singing, songwriting, dancing, jamming, performing. Your children will be fully entertained during the days of the festival. www.bluegrasscampsforkids.com is hired to produce the camp and they have information about our Grass Valley camp posted on their website. They also have a pretty extensive FAQ section. I am available for any questions you might have at darbycba@gmail.com.

“Jacob Groopman will manage the CBA Youth Academy again this year and some of the faculty from last year will return and we have added other experienced instructors from the Bluegrass Camps for Kids stable of musicians. BCforKids has been producing these camps for years and have a curriculum and materials that work for children this age. They teach beginning to advanced, young kids to teens and have many other camps under their belt. They run camps during other festivals and also free standing. The website tells the tale.

“All registration for the camp is through me and the CBA. Tuition is $300 and partial scholarships up to $200 are available. A responsible adult must attend the festival and deliver and pick up the child. The Academy times are approximately 9-3 daily. We will be available to provide instruments for the camp for student use and we will provide snacks. Once registered through the CBA there is a separate registration process through Bluegrass Camps for Kids and all information about level of instruction, instrument request etc will be through Kate Hamre, Director of the Program.

“We understand that some local school districts will still be in school that week because we have already enrolled children who are going to miss the last half week of school. Speak to us if you want to enroll but can only attend for three days.

“We are pleased and excited to offer this “new” program. These are the next generation of fans and pickers and it is up to all of us, the CBA Community, to spread the word and support these children. I am still accepting scholarship donations, check made out to CBA Youth Program (memo: Youth Academy) and mailed to Darby Brandli, 2106 9th Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606. I will immediately send you a tax letter because your donation may be tax deductible through our 501 (c )3 status.”

Your pal,
Mark Varner
mrvarner@ix.netcom.com


Reading, Riting, & Rithmatic
Today’s Column from Marc(os) Alvira
Sunday,April 6, 2014

There’s an old platitude: Those that can’t do, teach. As a thirty veteran of the classroom, I’ve learned not to rise to such bait whenever I hear it. (Besides, in the next breath, this person usually utters something about “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic”—the so called “three R’s.”) As much as I hate to admit, in most every trope there lies a grain of truth—however minuscule. In the particular case of teaching writing, I discovered just how large that grain of truth can be.

In every state, school district, and school, there is no shortage of writing committees searching for the next magic pedagogical pill that with transform tetherball playing, hormone crazy, knee scraped students into masterful , inspired authors. A teacher’s book case, including mine, will have at least a shelve devoted to the art/craft/ science of writing instruction. Audience. Purpose. Voice. Specification. Writers workshops. Peer editing. All are part of the English teacher’s lexicon and methodology. Yet, despite one’s best efforts, poor writers marginally improve mechanically, proficient writes gain a modicum of fluency in their prose, and the very good writers by the eighth grade—well, frankly, sometimes their ability is beyond the teacher’s scope and influence. In the Sisyphusian quest of writing instruction, an epiphany lit up my synapses one day in the middle of class: One has to be a writer to effectively teach writing.

It was in early October two years ago when, on a whim, I decided to share a column with my students that I had previously written. I thought that they would find the four short, “true,” eerie tales in the piece entertaining, and hopefully motivating. After their initial questions regarding the veracity of the stories (they were all true, of course), I shared with them a couple of sentences and images I was especially proud of. I invited them to comment on any literary observations they might have. I was astounded at the questions and discussion that ensued. I had rarely seen them so engaged in analyzing writing. From that point forward, whenever we begin a new genre or type of writing, they ask if I have something of my own I can read. I share with them my thought process about things like pacing, rhythm, organization, and the revision process. Most importantly, they have begun to organically discuss those same elements when they share their own writing in small groups or before the class.

Most modern writing instruction methodologies stress the importance of modeling writing for students—much like a math teacher will do with a new problem. There is a substantial difference I discovered between modeling a lesson and sharing authentic writing. The kids can sense the difference. Writing monthly columns for the CBA these last four years has somehow purchased me a certain legitimacy before my students. Assuming that one isn’t hammering at the keyboard shortly before deadline, the writing process is a life and death struggle. Only those that experiences the process upclose, like a war correspondent on the front-lines, can viscerally share the experience. Ideas and metaphor breath their first gulp of air. Some will perish early in their infancy Some will live. One must the find intrinsic worth in the struggle to bring a concept to fruitful life. This struggle can authentically be shared by those who write, and kids, the ultimate truth detectors, are attracted to the contest.

As a side observation (I never allow my students to digress in their writing like I am about to), over the years it has become apparent the girls generally are the more creative writers than boys, in fluency and mechanics. With few exceptions, in every class I can identify a few young ladies that have discovered a fountain expression in their writing. Boys generally are lummoxes, their prose at best clunky and their plots prosaic. It is interesting to note that contrary to the anecdotal evidence by me and most other educators, recent studies analyzing the ratio of publication and reviews of literature between men and woman offer a startling result. Over 70% of research bylines are by men. A 2013 analysis of the New York Review of Books revealed that 306 books penned by men were reviewed as opposed to 59 by women. Studies of other publishers and reviewers indicate results not as glaringly wide, yet significant nonetheless. Take a quick scan of the columns written by gender on our own CBA website. There is a lot of room for hypothesis and conjecture in the numbers, but it strikes me that there is an obvious disjunct between what teachers are seeing regarding authorship when people are 14 years old and what is occurring in adulthood. With all the talented young ladies I see every year in my classes, I am left wondering if there is something I can do to narrow that gap. More importantly, is there something I am doing to contribute to that gap?

Of all the great rewards Rick Cornish offered me (fame, untold wealth, a place assured for me in Heaven) when he sat in my backyard sipping, admiring my snap dragons, and cajoling me to write monthly Welcome Column, little did I realize the greatest reward would be a greater appreciation for writing that I could, in turn, share with my students. Of course, the greatest reward is yet to come: when I get to read something that one of my students has published.


College
Today’s Column from Marty Varner
Saturday,April 5, 2014


As some of you guys are aware, I am in my senior year in high school, which means that I have been spending much of the past six months deciding where I will go to college. Late last year was spent researching and deciding which colleges I should apply too along with creating all of the application materials. After creating these steps the best I could January and February were spent in eager anticipation of what the results from the colleges would be. March madness then came upon me, which was spent receiving application status letters. I am happy to inform all of the readers of this welcome column it went much better than I could have possibly hoped for. I believe because of the help from Rick Cornish, Darby Brandli, Tim Edes, and Ingrid Noyes, I was accepted to each private college I applied to: Clark University and Hampshire college in Massachusetts, University of Puget Sound in Washington, Willamette University in Oregon, and Whittier College in Southern California. All of these schools gave me very generous aid along with Whittier College giving me a music scholarship!

Since it was the closest one to visit, last weekend my family and I went to Whittier College. Before we went we did not know to expect. On one hand it is the hometown and alma mater of President Richard Nixon, but one the other the town and college are named after Quaker, abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier. When we arrived, we soon realized that it still possessed characteristics of the latter. Some of my readers may know that my father is an habitual runner (or at least it is the motion of running), when he went for his daily run through the town of Whittier he couldn’t help but feel great joy when each passerby said a charming “Hello!” or rang their bicycle ring when they rode pass him. We were very impressed by the town of Whittier, but the college itself needed to be evaluated.

The weekend we went Whittier College had an event inviting all of the accepted applicants to the college to hear about the college from the school’s faculty and students. When my family and I arrived we were amazed to see the huge palm trees and fields of green that surround the modern architecture. The one issue we found is that the entire college is on an uphill slant, which is impractical, but a great way to avoid the freshman 15!

When we listened to the different speeches we planned I was impressed by the teachers ability to well... teach! One of the different speeches was presented by the English, math, and political science teacher. These three teachers were to present the tag team class idea at Whittier. These classes combine two supposedly unrelated subjects like math and history to create another more specific class that can be taught by both teachers. One of the classes that was done by a math and history teacher was code breaking. In this class they would look at codes from Mary Queen of Scots, the Nazis and many others and try to decode them. The students, some of whom would be interested in the code and the other part interested in the meaning and context would then work together in the class instead of being constantly separated like what happens at bigger universities. What I enjoy about Whittier and the other colleges is that the class sizes are very small. Instead of having possibly 100 people in a class, a class at any of the colleges I applied to will never get past 25. This type of setting I believe is best for me and will lead to my success in the future. Along with thanking people like Rick, Darby, Tim and Ingrid I want to thank anybody who feels like they ever put me aside and told me what I needed to hear to become a better person, because I am sure you all did.


Ten Items or Fewer
Today’s Column from Brooks Judd
Friday,April 4, 2014


Item 1: Cataract surgery: It is amazing what modern medicine is capable of accomplishing. It is 5:55 a.m.and Sheila is driving me the one mile to our local surgical center in Turlock for my 6 a.m. appt.I sign in. At 6:30, I am having my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature taken. At 6:45, I am undressed,and begin to don a pale blue surgical gown.A few minutes later the smiling friendly nurse enters the room and hands me a warm blanket to cover me and at 7 a.m. she carefully inserts an IV into the back of my hand.She then marks an X with two strips of tape above my left eye as a safety measure so the doctor doesn’t operate on the wrong eye. “You can’t be too careful,” she assures me.

By 7:10, A smiling, Dr. Ash confidently makes his way into the cubicle, says hello and asks me what eye “we” are having surgery on? (I couldn’t help replying, “You’re the doctor, don’t you know?”} and he asks me to verify my name and date of birth.I answer both questions correctly and then slyly point to the X marked above my left eye. He smiles at me and says,“Let’s go.”
In a couple of minutes I feel the icy cold Versed oozing through the IV and the next thing I know it is 8:00.I am talking to Sheila in the recovery room and preparing to go home. My left eye that was at 20/85(with glasses) vision before surgery is now 20/25(without glasses). Next week I will have the right eye done and glasses (except for reading) will no longer be needed.

Modern medicine. My father had cataract surgery done in the early 80’s and I believe he was in the hospital for two days or more. I was in the surgical center for 2 1/2 hours.

Item 2: My eyesight has always been poor. Without my glasses I am unable to see the Big E on the eye chart let alone the eye chart itself. Because of very poor uncorrected eyesight I don’t think I have ever taken a shower and been able to read the name on the bar of soap I was using.

In high school every teen’s nightmare became a reality when we all had to take that dreaded first shower after PE. It wasn’t so bad for me because I truly felt that since I was unable to see myself let alone anyone else it made some sort of weird 15 year old logic that no one could see me.That worked just fine. As for my fellow students who were blessed with better eyesight than me I do apologize for what you may have thought was some mystical reincarnation of Mr. Magoo desperately looking around the steam shrouded shower stalls trying to locate his locker.

Item 3: Speaking of all kinds of doctors and nurses. A few years back I had minor surgery done on my foot and I was instructed that I needed to make a trip to Kaiser in Modesto to meet with the anesthesiologist.I signed in at the desk and in a few minutes my name was called.I was led to a small room. A few minutes later the anesthesiologist came in holding the ever present clip board.He sat down, flipped through a few pages on his clipboard and without making eye contact said in a monotone drone, “John, besides being quite obese do you have any questions for me?” “Yes.How long have you been a complete and utter tactless ^#%@^@%?”

Item 4: Not to belabor this issue because I have had excellent luck in all the many procedures I have had at the local hospitals over the past years, there have been times when I wondered where the nurses or doctors might have received their bedside manner training.

Having a cancerous prostate removed was a painful procedure especially with the two large IV tubes painfully poking out from my stomach after surgery. At times the pain became quite unbearable.I called for the nurse and explained to her how uncomfortable I was, that my stomach was on fire and I needed some relief. She patted my arm and in her best Nurse Ratched voice said, “We gave you your pain shot two hours ago.You have to wait four more hours before you can have your next injection.” I looked at her and pleaded my case. “It hurts like hell!” She smiled and said. “That’s why they call it pain.” I realized she did not intend to help me so I asked her if she could roust up a couple of bullets for me to grind down on.

Item 5: Basketball. My beloved Uncle John Sr.from Tracy (father of Asst. DA John Goulart,Jr.) celebrated his 91first birthday a couple of months ago.I love the man and he has an interesting take on basketball games. He opines, “Give each team 100 points and then set the clock for the final two minutes of the game.” If you have ever witnessed the final two minutes of a basketball game you know those two minutes can stretch to 20 minutes or more. I think Uncle John is on to something.

Item 6: Spring.The wait is over and the blossoms are blooming.”Play Ball!” Those wondrous words ring out and all is right with the world.Mr.Cub,Hall of Fame great Mr.Ernie Banks looked up at an aqua blue spring sky to see white wispy clouds being nudged by a warm zephyr like breeze and painted his famous verbal masterpiece, “It’s a great day for a ball game. Let’s play two.” Thank you Mr. Cub.

Item 6: Hockey.Here’s an idea.Use two pucks.

Item 7: Happy Glorious Easter to all of you.

Until May: Read a book, hug a child,pet a dog,stroke a cat, and eat a bar of chocolate.The Golden Rule? It’s golden for a reason.Try it out.The rewards can be amazing.

THE DAILY GRIST..."Yo, my mobile-homeboys, what's trippin' in the wood?” Bob Monroe from the movie “RV” (2006)

Motorhoming
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, April 3 2014


I spent more than a couple of these 1st Thursdays talking about being retired and what I would be spending my copious free time on. I've talked many times about bass playing, rehearsing or practicing, taking lessons, walking with lots of flats, jamming and playing in bands. I have also on numerous occasions filled you in on my beer making endeavors and have made multiple mentions of my vegetable and herb garden.

This was and is the plan. Play more bass, make more (and better) beer and grow some great vegetables. From my perspective, everything is good on all those fronts. Although maybe my thumb is a little on the yellow side of green but all is good with these endeavors.

What has happened though, is by outright necessity, I have taken on an additional time consuming hobby. Maintaining my motorhome! This is darn near a full time job. You guys never told me about this when I "crossed over" the water ditch a couple of years ago. I was sure it was get in and go whenever and to wherever I want. Yeah right, but don't forget to check the ................well everything, heater, toilet, stove, propane, slide out, sewer, shower, electricity, refrigerator, awning, etc. and make sure you have the right toilet paper.

Usually at this time of the year I would just be getting back from my annual trip to the tropics to celebrate the spring equinox but this year we couldn't make the trip because the motorhome is in the shop.

A few weeks ago we went to a campout with our RV club friends. Usually, these are very mellow affairs with some good food and drink and a chance to get away and hang out away from home. Linda brings her mandolin and guitar and I bring one of my basses. The other club members aren't players so just Linda and I play a little together which for some strange reason we don't do much at home, at least just the two of us.

That is how it was supposed to be but it turned to be the trip from hell. The campground was an un-kept parking lot with the camping spaces on top of each other complete with potholes that appeared to come from a recent meteor shower. Minutes after arriving we locked ourselves out of the rig. It was downhill from there. After getting back in, we had the slide out malfunction, the dinette table collapse, wall sockets pulling off the wall and a leak in the bathroom sink. Finally, on the way home we picked up a nail in a tire that was just put on 4 days earlier. Other than that the campout was lots of fun.

Now the RV is in the shop waiting for $1500 worth of parts to fix the slide out.

Here’s the deal. I’m neither a mechanic nor an engineer. Nobody knows my name at the auto parts or hardware stores and in fact there is some kind of radar that goes off when I go into one of those stores that lets the clerks know right away to not let me touch anything. It’s for my own protection, they say.

Sure over the years I have done some maintenance and repairs on our cars and around our home but only when we had no other real alternative at the time. You know like not having enough money to get your car repaired but needing it to get to work. Then taking 3 or 4 times longer than a real mechanic to get it limping for a few days before someone like my wife’s cousin or some parent from my little league team could do it correctly. That was years ago. Once I became a “giant in the business world”, no more maintenance for me. That’s why the universe created Jiffy Lube and the like.

I’m finding out that owing a motorhome requires a lot more hands on maintenance than I anticipated. It seems that being somewhat handy comes with the hobby. Cousin Doug doesn’t work on motorhomes. I don’t think Jiffy Lube does either.

So what is a mechanical misfit to do if he wants to keep owning a motorhome. Well first, he needs to suck it up and get back to the “do whatever it takes” kind of guy he was 30 years ago. I’m doing that. I have more hand tools in the RV than I do in my home and have even recently used them to fix a leaky sink and to repair a stripped wall socket.

This recent embracing of my inner mechanic helps but it is not enough. I also needed to find “a go to” shop for my rig repair needs and I found one in Redwood City. The warning radar still goes off when I go into their shop but they know me now and take care of me well.

Word is, we will be getting the motorhome back this week just in time to pack up for the Walker Creek Music Camp. I picked up some of the super secret TP at Walmart so I’m set there. Can someone remind me what else I need to check before hitting the road? ………………..oh yeah, everything!

Anyway, as we like to say around here often, I told you all that so I could tell you this. I won the FHU lottery again this year. That’s three years running. (I’ve been hoping this streak of luck would carryover to the Super Lotto or Powerball but nooooooo.) So, as in the last few years, we will be “crossed over” again this year. I don’t know the site number yet but I will be sure to tell you when I know because we are extending our annual invitation to stop by have a sip of anejo and maybe pick a tune or two. I’ll be at Vern’s too, pouring beer. Hope to see you there.


Circle of Fiftha, ans Other Miracles
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, April 2, 2014


No, this is not an article about drinking at a jam session. I’m sure most of you have heard the expression “Circle of Fifths”. The notion is if you move from one tone to another 5 tones higher, eventually it circles back around the beginning spot. Interestingly (or not), going the other way around is a circle of Fourths.

This is all very interesting, (or not), but I have to admit I have hard time making much sense of this, at least on the fly. Whenever someone is showing someone else a chord pattern, it seems like someone will exclaim, “Oh, I get it – it’s a circle of fifths.” This is always dismays me, because I have no trouble jumping to 4ths and 5ths or even 2’s or 6’s, but trying to do the math on a circle of fifths always eludes me.

This is especially difficult in the dark, by lantern light, at 4 in the morning, with thebetter part of a fifth already inside of me.

Why did I bring this up?

Oh yes, it’s a metaphorical allusion. Despite my squeamishness about it, the circle of fifths is an elegant mathematical representation of the magic within our (the Western world anyways) chromatic 12 tone scale, and that’s pretty cool. It reminds me of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, which sounds made up, but is miraculously used by numerous plants for concentric petal.leaf or root patterns – how about that? Sometimes, the universe actually makes some sense.

I told you that, to tell you this (he said, echoing Ron Thomason). I have come to realize that, like the seemingly meaningless circle of fifths or Fibonacci’s Sequence, music styles relate in ways that may surprise you.

I started off playing rock’n’roll. I learned a bit about meter, and keys, chords, transposition and especially, riffs, which are really helpful in improvisation. I only cared about rock (and maybe blues). All other forms I heard puzzled me, or left me cold. Country? Hopelessly lame. Jazz? Impossibly (and willfully) obtuse. Big Band? Too brassy and sappy.

Then I got bit by the bluegrass bug. Like a lot of rockers, it took a bit of getting used to, rhythm wise – the emphasis was not on the downbeat but the rhythm floated on the “chuck” on upbeat – and it’s a marvelous way to provide driving energy from acoustic instruments. I was able to apply what I already knew regarding keys, chords and such. I have found the transition from riff-based soloing to a combination of riffs and melody a refreshing challenge – it certainly does not come naturally to me.

Then, some years later, I began playing some classic country music, and lo - much of the guitar playing I learned for bluegrass translated into country rather nicely. Also, country music is very much melody-driven, and many of the melodies fit nicely with bluegrass songs I had learned.
Then, the circle came all the way around. I started playing some rock and blues with some bands in town, and my approach was nearly nothing like it was when I was a rockin’ lad in my 20s. In the 20+ years I had been playing bluegrass, and country, I picked up principles of timing, harmony and melody that would have bewildered me way back when. OK, to be honest, I still get bewildered - just not as often, and maybe not as obviously.

Every twist and turn you take in playing music, you get to bring elements of what you knew and apply them in new ways. Folks this is fun stuff. So, this festival season, find a jam where they’re playing a style way outside your comfort zone. It can be embarrassing, but no one can see you blush in the dark!


April 2014 President’s Message
Today's column from Darby Brandli
Tuesday, April 1, 2014


We kick off the spring season with an event in Cloverdale that Board Member Mark Hogan is involved with as part of his Sonoma County Area Activities position. This is year number 39 for the Cloverdale Fiddle Festival but the first to be held April 5th. We can kick off the season by supporting our Old Time Fiddler cousins by attending this event (a contest and a festival) for the day! The CBA Youth Program is a sponsor for the peewee division of the fiddle contest and the Association will also sponsor the twin fiddle contest.

The CBA Spring Campout is back to Turlock the last weekend in April. Campouts are fun, laid back, no pressure, no schedule events where socializing and jamming are the only two things on the “agenda.” We keep returning to Turlock because it is in the heart of the Central Valley off Hwy 99 with easy access for everyone north to south. The Stanislaus County Fairground management are lovely to work with and the facilities are clean, secure and the perfect size for a campout. If you have never attended have this be the year. The Fairgrounds open on Monday and the Fairgrounds belong to us until Sunday afternoon. We usually have a dinner with entertainment on Friday or Saturday and sometimes a band scramble. There is an opportunity to renew your membership, purchase some Mercantile, buy a Father’s Day tee-shirt, speak to a volunteer coordinator about a possible volunteer position and meet some new people. There are good places to eat in Turlock so we don’t even pack a camp kitchen.

There is still time to enroll some young people in the CBA Youth Academy or for FunGrass at Music Camp. Contact me for information about the Academy and about scholarship money. Last year’s outreach to the music community throughout Northern California also brought new young people to participate in the Kids on Bluegrass (KOB) program at Father’s Day. Sharon Elliott is back assisting Frank Solivan with the KOB and she will also be happy to answer questions about that performance activity at FDF. Kathleen Rushing is again in charge of FunGrass (Music Camp) and KidFest (the children’s recreational festival activity). Bruce Long is having another joint replaced and could use some help with the Instrument Lending Library….Bruce was unable to attend FDF last year and we are crossing our fingers that he will be able to attend this year but he will struggle with the instruments. Some unknown (to me) festival attendee loaded (and I mean LOADED) his VW Van with all the instruments donated to the Library during last year’s event and personally drove them down the hill to Bruce’s house. There are small jobs and large jobs that can be done with all these parts of the Youth Program. In order to volunteer with the Youth Program, we require a current CBA membership and you must consent to background checks (the exception is the Lending Library because there is rare direct contact with children without parents present). I can be a direct contact for any of the Youth Program activities and will forward you to the appropriate person. darbycba@gmail.com.
We are sad to hear that the Kings River Bluegrass Festival (aka Hobbs Grove) has closed the gate for 2014. Festival Director Stan Allen had to make this tough decision based on falling attendance for the last couple of years with a subsequent financial loss. Perhaps the Kings River community, a strong membership base for the CBA, can get together and revive the event during a different time or in a different place or with a different format. It is unclear why attendance continued to drop because everyone who ever attended raved about the event and the venue. We know there are ardent bluegrass supporters in the geographic area and some of our most valuable volunteers reside close by. We hope this is only a hiatus and not a permanent cancellation of a beloved event.
My fingers are crossed that we will have many April Showers this month but not during the Cloverdale event or the Spring Campout. We definitely want some more water for our beloved State.


San Francisco Celebrates Bluegrass Spring Jubilee
Guest column from Chuck Poling
Monday, March 31, 2014


I’ve been the Area Activities VP for San Francisco for about eight or nine years and I try to do all I can to spread the word about the CBA, all the great things it does and all the wonderful people who make up the bluegrass community. If anyone I meet expresses the slightest interest in bluegrass music, they get an earful from me.

I’ve come to realize that the single best selling point for the CBA is the annual Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley. Every year I encourage friends, colleagues, and even rank strangers to come up and enjoy the music, the weather, and the community. I always get a few to attend each year for their first trip, and without exception they are hooked. Some have joined the CBA and now block out Father’s Day weekend on their calendar.

I’m glad that my retail politics gets a few more people up to Grass Valley, but as CBA rep for San Francisco, I figure I’ve got a responsibility to do more to reach bluegrass enthusiasts in SF and connect them to the CBA. To that end, I’m putting together a series of events I’m calling the Bluegrass Spring Jubilee.

The fun starts on Sunday, April 6, with a jam at the Lucky Horseshoe on Cortland Avenue followed by a performance by One Lane Ahead. The Lucky Horseshoe is the latest bluegrass hot spot to pop up in San Francisco and is a meeting place for the many bluegrassers who live in the Bernal Heights neighborhood – like Bill Foss and Martha Hawthorne, Larry Chung, Frank Holmes, and LH co-owner Eric Embry.

St. Cyprian’s Church is the scene of the Bluegrass Spring Jubilee concert on Sunday, April 26 featuring Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick performing the music of Vern and Ray, and Windy Hill, SF’s leading neo-traditionalist bluegrass band.

This is going to be one of best bluegrass shows in San Francisco this year. Longtime fans of Laurie and Kathy will get a chance to see and hear them in a concert hall-type room with great acoustics. And for new fans, Laurie and Kathy’s tribute to California bluegrass pioneers Vern Williams and Ray Park is a great introduction to the past and present legends of West Coast bluegrass. Joining Laurie and Kathy are Tom Rozum on mandolin. Sharon Gilchrist on bass, and Patrick Sauber on banjo.

Windy Hill brings an abundance of enthusiasm, serious chops, and a deep respect for the icons of first generation bluegrass. Ryan Breen (banjo), Alex Sharpe (fiddle), Thomas Wille (guitar), and Kyle McCabe (bass) play the music of Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, and other titans of bluegrass, along with their own trad-based original songs.

The concert is scheduled the same weekend as the CBA Spring Campout in Turlock, but I don’t see the two events competing with each other. The audience I’m trying to reach are not, for the most part, members of the CBA. The hope is to educate them, get them up to Grass Valley in June and, once they’re hooked, get them to join and see them at next year’s Spring campout, as well as other CBA activities.

And if you’re not going to the campout anyway, I can’t think of a better way to get your bluegrass fix than to come to this show. Besides, it’s more than a concert – the fun starts at 5 with a jam session in the church hall that goes on until 7:30. Plus I’ll be giving out door prizes, thanks to Tom Diamant and Arhoolie Records.

The final spring event is our annual Pickin’ Picnic in Golden Gate Park. Jeanie and I started calling this the Enth Annual Picnic a few years back because, well, we lost track, but we think this has got to be at least the tenth, so let’s call it an anniversary. The Pickin’ Picnic has become a popular tradition and an effective outreach tool, as it attracts a lot of bluegrass newbies and is a great opportunity to talk up the CBA.

All the details are available on the innerweb at:
http://countryroundupsf.com/PickinPicnic.html

I’m adding extra bait to the trap with an incentive for new memberships and renewals. Anyone who joins or renews their CBA membership at any of these events is eligible for a free drawing for two four-day passes to the 2014 Father’s Day Festival. The drawing will be held at the May 10th Pickin Picnic – winner need not be present.

I hope to see many of you at these events and that you spread the word near and far to friends and family that there is an active, lively bluegrass scene in San Francisco. The Bluegrass Spring Jubilee is on!

Questions? Contact Chuck at chuck.poling@gmail.com

Here’s a complete list of events:

Sunday, April 6
Bluegrass Jam and Show
with One Lane Ahead
The Lucky Horseshoe
453 C ortland Avenue
Jam 4 pm – Show 8 pm
FREE/21 and Over

Saturday, April 26
Jubilee Concert & Jam Session
Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick sing the Music of Vern and Ray
Windy Hill
at St. Cyprian’s Church
2097 Turk Street
Jam Session 5 to 7:30 FREE
Concert 8 to 11 pm/$15 Adv/$18 Door
FREE PARKING
All ages welcome

Saturday, May 10
Bluegrass Pickin’ Picnic
In Golden Gate Park/Dahlia Picnic Area
Just east of the Conservatory of Flowers
Noon to 5 pm
FREE/ All ages welcome



THE DAILY GRIST..."This is such a beautiful story. Thanks for chronicling the events, brother Brooksie. Love, YS”

How Great Thou Art (Part Two of a Fathers Day Story)
Today's column from Brooks Judd
Sunday, March 30, 2014


Mud fest 1995 20th anniversary was the seventh and last Father's Day festival my father and I enjoyed together. He died the day after Thanksgiving in 1995.I was having a hard time coming to grips with his death. I submitted a story to the CBA in May of 1996 about my father and how I became involved in bluegrass music. The story also dealt with many other things, one of them being my concern in being able to attend Fathers Day 1996 without my father. The Bluegrass Breakdown published my story in the Father's Day June 1996 issue. The story was titled, “How Great Thou Art… A Father's Day Tale”. This was probably one of the original “How I got hooked on Bluegrass stories.”

J.D. Rhynes, and Rick Cornish spent a couple of months persuading me to attend the 1996 festival. I had never met J.D. but had talked to him on the phone several times after my father's death and he turned out to be a fountain of inspiration for me. Rick was a rock as usual. I made the decision to attend Father's Day 1996. I was teaching summer school so I would only be able to come up early Saturday and leave early Sunday.

I set off with a grim determination convinced that I would be able to make it through the weekend. As I was driving up highway 80 I began thinking of how many times my father and I had driven up to Grass Valley in his blue and white Ford Ranger. I drove and it would frustrate my father when I would turn on the radio. He would reach over and with a flick of the wrist turn off the radio saying, ”We're talking, not listening to the radio!” In a way he and Rick were a lot alike. In September I would come to Grass Valley for the Mid Summer Bluegrass Festival. Rick and I would meet for an early Saturday breakfast in town. After we had ordered breakfast I would neatly spread out my San Francisco Chronicle on the table, pick out the sports page and begin to read. Rick would nonchalantly pick up the stainless steel creamer and slowly pour it all over the sports page. “What the Hell are you doing, Rick?” I asked. Rick would smile that sardonic twisted smile of his and reply, “We're talking here, not reading the paper!”

I arrived at Grass Valley early Saturday morning and immediately drove to camp Cornish. I unloaded my bass and sleeping bag and went looking for Rick. I found him near the side of the stage. I told him my plan. I wanted to introduce myself to J.D. and thank him. I wanted to play a little music, watch a couple of acts, go out to our traditional Saturday night dinner play some more music and be in bed by 11pm. Rick nodded and said,” Sounds good, J.D. is right over there.”

J.D. was in the stage area right next to the stage inside the screened off area. The acts weren't due on for another hour. I would be able to go inside and introduce myself and not break any rules. Rick was standing next to me and was gently pushing me toward the stage and J.D. I began to feel silly and told Rick I would do this later. Rick kept pushing. I realized if I didn't do it now I would never do it. I slowly walked up to J.D. He was shuffling some papers and looked at me. I said, “J.D. I'm Brooks Judd.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. I hugged J.D. and he began telling me that everything was going to be o.k. It's crazy but I needed that hug and through the tears and all I began to feel better. Poor J.D. Such a gentleman and here I was hanging on to him and sobbing.

So much for my stiff upper lip.

The rest of the afternoon went by in a blur. I chatted and jammed with old friends and saw bits and pieces of the acts. Dinnertime snuck up on us so Rick and I set out to town for our traditional Saturday night dinner. We shared wine (lots of wine) ate a good dinner, and shared memories of Rick's father, Bebe, and my father, Buzz. They were good friends. Bebe had died several years earlier and all my memories of him were good ones. Bebe didn't have a mean bone in his body and he treated me like a second son. I loved him.

We finished dinner and headed back to camp. At camp I jammed some more, I saw a few minutes of the remaining acts, and at 11 pm I made my way back to camp and to the warmth and security of my sleeping bag.

I was proud of myself. Except for the sea of tears with J.D. I had held up pretty good.

I spread out my sleeping bag and thought of Rick. It drove Rick crazy that I wouldn't stay up and jam, but with my work schedule, my eyes and body just about shut down at midnight on the weekends. I got into the warm sleeping bag, zipped it up and placed a light blanket over the sleeping bag. I fluffed up my pillow, took one last look at the pine trees surrounding the camp, made a visual sweep of all the surrounding camps, took a deep breath of the beautiful crisp pine scented June air, exhaled, and slowly pulled off my glasses and set them down next to my pillow. Things being blurry, my ears picked up the slack and I began to decipher the various jams going on around the campgrounds. The wine won out and I slowly drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.

I had just about nodded off in the land where pudgy bass players were considered the sex symbols in bluegrassdom, the music of Bob Paisley and Beethoven resonated throughout all the homes in the world, and rap and hip hop would not appear for another 300 years.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of something or someone plodding heavily through the camp. I could hear and feel the heavy sound of tromping footsteps nearing my sleeping bag. I listened intently as the noisy steps came nearer. The rustling of the twigs and pinecones stopped abruptly. I sensed the presence of someone breathing right over me. I lay motionless in my sleeping bag.

Two large paws grabbed the ends of my blanket and gently raised the blanket and pulled it slowly up over my shoulders. I felt a gentle tap as the paws tucked the end of the blanket around my shoulders. Then I heard a voice say, “Good night old friend.”

As the footsteps slowly began walking out of the camp I quickly reached over and picked up my glasses and put them on. I could see a large shaggy bearded rumpled haired man in white shorts, sporting a tank top that defied description, lumbering out of the camp site heading into the land of pine trees and music. He was holding a fiddle in his left hand and a bow in his right hand. It was Rick. I smiled to myself and slowly drifted off into a musical sea of Beethoven and bluegrass.

My eyes opened about 7:30 in the morning. I felt great. I stretched and smelled the morning air. I put my glasses on looked around Camp Cornish. Everyone was still sleeping. Farther away I could see movements in some of the other camps. Campers were putting coffee on and I saw smoke drifting up from the campfires. A few campers were heading toward the showers, cradling their towels like warm puppies.

My father and I had always shared Fathers Day breakfast at the waffle vendor's booth. I thought for old times sake I would go find the vendor, sit down, have a cup of coffee and a waffle and pretend my father was sitting right next to me. I located the vendor, placed my order, and made my way over to the redwood table. I sat down and began to eat. I thought of past Father's Days and how we shared breakfast.

My father and I would order our breakfast, find a table, sit down, and begin to eat. I would bring out my “special” fathers day card filled with sentimental thoughts I had spent two hours writing down. I would proudly hand over the card to my father. He would place his plastic fork down on the paper plate, grab the card with his thick arthritic fingers, open the envelope, pull out the card, read the front of the card, quickly open the card, spend about 2 seconds reading what I had spent eternities writing, lay down the card, pick up his fork, spear another piece of waffle, take a sip of coffee, look at my expectant face and say, “Nice.” I was shocked. “Nice! I spent two hours writing all those things!”



How Great Thou Art (Part One of a Fathers Day Story)
Today's column from Brooks Judd
Saturday, March 29, 2014


Editor's note: It's been our practice over the years that, in early spring, as we move toward the CBAs largest, oldest, and best-known event – – the Father's Day Festival at grass Valley – – we bring back welcome columns that give a flavor of that now legendary gathering. This first "rebroadcast" of 2014 is my favorite of the bunch, mainly because it was written by my oldest and dearest friend. Yesterday in my own welcome I shared that a few days ago I seriously injured myself, separated shoulder, and it's times like these that all of us I think find ourselves focusing on the importance of close friends. So then, this is the story of how I was able to snare my childhood friend into a wanton love of the music that Bill gave us. RC)


1986: Our twentieth year class reunion was coming up and after a long absence of seven years my oldest and dearest friend, Rick Cornish, calls me on the phone. It seems Rick has been keeping himself busy since the last time we talked in 1979. He is in a bluegrass band, whatever that is, and his band, the Grass Menagerie, is hired to play at a place called Grass Valley for The Fathers Day Bluegrass Festival in 1987. Grass Valley? God, I hope this isn't that hillbilly music you hear on Hee Haw. Rick invites our family to attend the 1987 Fathers Day Festival. I gladly accept, and then begin to wonder if I will need to purchase a pair of overalls and a big straw hat.

Rick sends me a tape of his band. I play it once, twice, then again and again. I was amazed. "Hey Rick, I said, "Do you have any more of this type of music?" Rick said he has a "few" tapes somewhere and he would send them to me. I explain to Rick that I played his tape so many times, it wore my tape player out. Rick tells me not to worry about it.

A couple of weeks later Rick presents me with his tape player and about twenty bluegrass tapes. I tell Rick I feel funny accepting his tape player. "No problem, he says, I was planning to buy a new one anyway."

Then the bluegrass tapes start coming in. I receive at least two boxes filled to the brim with bluegrass tapes. I can't keep up with all the different bands. A few weeks later Rick calls and asks me if I have a favorite bluegrass group yet. I tell him I really like two bands, Old and In the Way and The Nashville Bluegrass Band.

1987: My wife, Sheila, and my two daughters, Jessica and Rhiannon head out to Grass Valley. Rick greets us at Camp Cornish. Rick's sons, Peter and Philip have set up a huge tent for our family. It's just like the Hilton. I thank Rick and his sons. We unpack our supplies and begin to look around. I see a lot of people and hear a lot of outstanding music.

Rick and I take a walk and I can see he is nervous. I have never seen Rick nervous before. I ask him if he is doing O.K. Rick shares with me that playing on stage at Grass Valley is a dream come true for him and he wants his set to go perfect. I smile and tell Rick that he and his band will knock 'em dead.

It's 7:00 P.M. and the Grass Menagerie takes the stage. They tear the place apart. I am sitting in the very front row and am extremely proud of my old friend Rick. After each song I yell out loud to anyone who will listen, "That's Rick. He's my oldest friend. That's his group. Aren't they great?"

The rest of the weekend is a blur of wonderful exciting music. I get to watch the Osborne Brothers, Del McCoury, and The Piney Creek Weasels to name a few of the outstanding groups that performed that year. I sit in the front row from 10:00A.M when the opening act plays until 11 p.m. when the last act has finished their encore. In two short days it has happened. I am hooked on bluegrass music. But one thing bothers me. Why do all these people stay up all night and play music? Our huge tent provides no shelter from all the jamming that's going on. If the music wasn't so fantastic a person could get cross by not being allowed to fall asleep.

Strange people these Bluegrass folk. It was a great festival. Rick invites us to attend The Father's Day Festival 1988. We accept.


1988: Our family heads for Grass Valley again. This time we stay at the Northern Queen Hotel in Nevada City (to assure at least an hours sleep). Even though the temperatures run into the 140's, our family survives. The festival was fantastic and I begin to realize that I am on my way to Bluegrass Junkiedom!

My wife and daughters decide to take a break from Grass Valley. My wife tells me I should talk to my dad and see if he wants to go. I do and he does. My father and I share a mutual respect for the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This mutual respect has created a bond between us that is special. Going to Grass Valley and sharing the musical experience should be fun for both of us.

1989-1993: My father and I attend the Father's Day Festivals. My father loves the music and loves chatting with all the folks in Camp Cornish. If there was ever a bonding experience Grass Valley was certainly the glue. We both look forward to the music and with excited anticipation relish the fact that we will be able to spend time with Rick and his family and our new found bluegrass friends.

1993: My father and I are driving home after attending another wonderful Father's Day Festival. But there is a problem. Something is gnawing away at me. I can't put my finger on it. When I finally make it home to Turlock I realize what the problem is. I was tired of watching the great bands, tired of watching everyone jam, tired of being a spectator. I wanted to participate. I wanted to play. I wanted to play the bass. But I have no bass.

I immediately phone Rick and share my thoughts with him. Before I finish my story Rick says he will bring his bass up to Turlock the next day. I can't believe that Rick would do this. Rick is adamant about one thing. He tells me if I borrow his bass it cannot collect dust in my closet. I have to practice. (Rick knows me to well). I agree.

ick lives 100 miles away and the next day is Monday. Rick doesn't care. The music is what matters. We discuss it and settle on a later date in Hayward at my father's house. The date we settle on is the same day my niece Megan Lynch is competing in the fiddle competition at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton. She is competing against my youngest daughter's boyfriend, Sean.

After the fiddle contest, Maria, Megan, Sean, my daughter, all meet at my father's house. Soon Rick arrives with his bass. I ask the usual questions, "Where are the frets?"

"What size pick do I use?" Rick demonstrates how to hold the bass and says with a very straight face, "Brooks, within six months you will be in a group AND performing on stage in front of people." Rick also tries to sell me some aluminum siding but I don't buy that either.

I don't want to let Rick or myself down. I practice every chance I can. I put tape after tape on and play along to the music. If I skip even one day I just know Rick will find out and he'll call me and ask me why I am not practicing. That's all right. If I hadn't had made that promise to Rick chances are the bass would have found its way into my closet.

So, I keep practicing.

1994: Rick is right. Within 6 months I am in a band (with Sean and his father) and performing onstage in front of people. I love it. In June of 1994 at Grass Valley in front of my father and friends Rick presents his bass to me as a gift. I don't think I will ever possess a gift that means as much to me as that bass.

1995: My father and I look forward to being part of the 20th anniversary of the CBA at Grass Valley. Sadly, the weather is suited for mid-December not June. The friendly volunteers, clothed in rain gear, waders, over-coats and wielding multi colored umbrellas greet us at the gate with wide grins. The ground has been strewn with hay to help sop up the water and mud. Seeing all this reminds me of the scene in Paint Your Wagon where the miners are dancing in the mud to the song, "Hand Me Down That Can of Beans."

It seems that everyone does his or her best to adapt to the chilly weather. Those of us at Camp Cornish gather around a large portable Coleman campfire/stove that Rick has set up and we begin to swap bluegrass stories. It seems that everywhere you look people are not going to let the rain and cold ruin this special 20th anniversary.

Saturday night Chubby Wise performs. It is cold, damp, and drizzly as my father and I huddle down in our chairs in front of the stage trying to stay warm. Chubby walks onto the stage and plays a great set. After his set he is called back for his encore. Then it happens. Chubby begins to play "How Great Thou Art." About one minute into the song…



THE DAILY GRIST..."There are two kinds of people in this world: people who believe that Father's Day in the week leading up to it should be made a national holiday, and people who don't. I call this second group the ‘uninformed masses.’"—James R. Childress, CBA Member #97

Hello, this is the California Bluegrass Association. How may I help you?
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Friday, March 28, 2014


Good morning from Whiskey Creek where five turkey vultures lazily soar in a figure 8 pattern over our little slice of heaven here in the gold country. Known for their ability to sense from miles and miles away the smell of death and decay and abject failure, the scavengers showed up in our airspace just hours after I returned from the emergency room at Sonora Regional Hospital with a separated shoulder three days ago. They could smell even then the rank odor of approaching collapse and catastrophe.

Five different projects, scattered over our six acres and in varying stages of completion, all destined now to remain forever uncompleted and cast aside like carrion along side the road. Five dreams never to be realized--the greenhouse two thirds completed…the two new vegetable garden terraces, also nearly completed but languishing now due to inattention…the new cabinet for my computer room sanded and ready the staining that will likely never happen…the livestock fence extension in the pasture that, had it continued on schedule, would've allowed the five Cornish llamas to roam deep into our lush oak forest gorging on the poison oak I’d planned to have gone by the time our grandchildren came to visit later in the spring…the stone fish pond, its irregular footprint carefully mapped out in baseball diamond chalk but with not a single shovel-full of dirt turned over.

All carefully planned enterprises, symbols of a better, brighter future, now put aside, probably forever, while I go through months and months of medical procedures, physical therapy and solitary, suffocating inactivity. And how did this happen? How did my world suddenly crumble underneath my feet? Simple… I was carrying a heavy object, (a speaker cabinet), I stumbled forward down an incline, almost regained my balance, picked up speed as I stumbled further, and when I realized it was futile I tucked my arms, lowered my head and tumbled to the ground, letting my right shoulder take the full impact of the fall. The result, a Grade Three shoulder separation. (Is that bad, you ask? Well, there are only three grades.)

But hey, that's water under the bridge. Let's look on the bright side—it’s springtime, we’re getting a little rain as opposed to none, it’s looking more and more like the Mold Man will remain in Lithuania on a…um…little vacation, bluegrass season 2014 has officially hatched, and for me personally I’m receiving more and more telephone calls about our festival and the two music camps coming up in June. When I retired from the Board of Directors I accepted an appointment as operations director of the Association, a fancier title than my actual responsibilities but nonetheless it gives me a chance to continue giving back a tiny fraction of what I’ve received from the CBA since 1977. Oddly, the job I enjoy most is taking the calls each spring. All of the publicity the Association produces for festival week carries my name and telephone number and it's just about this time each year that the phone begins to ring off the hook

Those who know me know that I'm not particularly fond of talking on the telephone… In fact, the truth is, I hate it. But for some reason I get a big kick out of taking calls from people who have questions about our festival and all the collateral activities that comprise Festival Week. Generally I can answer most anything that people ask and in the instances in which I can't I promise to get back to them after I’ve done my research. My most enjoyable callers are folks who’ve never been to the grass Valley Festival, are feeling a little nervous about walking into uncharted territory, and just want a better understanding of the event and a little hand holding reassurance that their decision to drive up to the mountains was a smart one. And boy can I give it to them. This will be my 38th Father's Day festival, and I feel like I know every square inch of ground, every pine tree, every utility shed, and every nuk and cranny where the best jams take place.

One fellow called from Calgary wanting to confirm that we have, in fact, changed our pet policy. “The wife and I would hate to drive all the way out there just to find out little Brownie couldn't come through the gates and have to turn around and drive home to Canada." I assured him brownie would more than welcome. A woman who lives in Los Gatos called to say that she’d be coming to the festival for the first time with her father. “Dad,” she said, “has been going to your festival for 25 years. He's finally at the age, though, where he’s a little nervous about driving up by himself so we’re going to attend together. What should I expect?” And there are the off-the-wall inquiries as well. It seems each year someone has a question about our little pond, Lyons Lake, adjacent to the electric only area at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. This year a guy wanted to know if boaters would be allowed to pull multiple water skiers on the lake. Another asked if California made available temporary, weeklong hunting licenses…”I've read that out there in the Sierras ya got plenty of black bears and brown bears. By golly, I’d sure like to shoot me one."

It's funny, but I find that quite a few of the people who call sound a little sheepish when I answer and will frequently apologize for calling. (“I know how busy you must be and hate to trouble you.”) By the time we finish our telephone conversation, though, there is little question that rather than being annoyed by their call I’m pleased to talk to them; some even sense in me a bit of pride in our annual classic held under the tall pines.

Judging from the calls we've already gotten since tickets went on sale I'm going to go out on a limb and say there’ll be greater numbers of out-of-state visitors this year than we've seen in the past, and that makes me very happy. Actually, I believe we all have the right to take pride in the organization we've built over nearly 4 decades. Getting to tell people about it…strangers…is just icing on the cake.

Have a good weekend, listen to some bluegrass or old-time music, and for God's sake, try not to fall down. Wish somebody had given me that advice early Tuesday morning. Oh, I guess while I have you on the line I should warn you that it’s unlikely I’ll be able to keep up the regular flow of new content at cbaontheweb.org while I’m recuperating and doing physical therapy.



THE DAILY GRIST..."In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.”-- Napoleon Bonaparte

The night I met Ramblin Jack Elliott
Today's column from JD Rhynes
Thursday, March 27, 2014


I keep this little spiral-bound notebook in a cubbyhole on my desk and in it are miscellaneous old tidbits of information. Stuff like e-mail addresses, contact information for grass Valley festivals gone by, CBA directors phone numbers, cell phone numbers, etc.. As the information gets deleted, I tear the pages out until only pertinent information remains. Consequently, there's only about a dozen pages left in the little note book and the majority of the information contained in it have to do with ideas for my monthly welcome messages. Today, while thumbing through it looking for an idea for Thursday's welcome message, I noticed a sentence that said; the night that Pat and I met Ramblin Jack Elliott. Pat being, Pat Russell my cowboy buddy who is the older brother of Tom Russell, the entertainer. So here's how Pat Russell and I met Ramblin Jack Elliott.

Tom Russell was booked to play Constable Jacks, in Newhall, California, a little town on Highway 80, just west of Auburn, California. Constable Jacks is a neat venue that seats maybe 100 people and on that said night it was packed. Pat picked me up at my house around three o'clock in his cowboy Cadillac [Dodge crew cab pickup] and we headed up the mountain to Newhall, and got there around 5:30. The show didn't start till seven o'clock so we had plenty of time to enjoy a nice leisurely meal and a few cold beers. The food there was excellent, and the beer was decently chilled, and come showtime, the crowd was definitely in a festive mood. Tom was pleasantly surprised to see Pat and I there at the show and we had time to visit a few minutes before the show started. Toward the end of the first set, I seen this elderly gentleman come in the door, wearing a well-traveled cowboy hat and I recognized him right off as being the one and only Ramblin Jack Elliott. I poked Pat in the ribs, and said, look who just showed up. He took one look at the older gentleman and said who the hell is that? That my boy says I, is none other than Ramblin Jack Elliott, the original Brooklyn cowboy! Well I'll be cow kicked, said Pat! By this time Jack was looking for an empty chair and I stood up and motioned to him to come join us, which he gladly did. Now Jack and Tom Russell are great friends, and have appeared together several times at different shows. So I introduced Pat to him as Tom's brother then introduced myself, telling him I knew who he is and how much I admired his work over the years

Tom saw him when he came in, and after Jack got seated at our table and introduced around, Tom told the crowd that one of his heroes had showed up at the show tonight and introduced Jack to the crowd, to a resounding round of applause. After a couple of more songs there was about a 45 min. intermission, where Tom and his guitar player. Andrew Harden came and sat at our table until the show started again. About halfway into the second set, Tom got Jack to come join him and do six or seven songs with them. This was definitely a magic night for all of us in attendance. Jack told the story of how he got into show business when he was 12 years old. The circus came to Brooklyn where he lived, and a guy went by his house one day leading a horse, so Jack just followed him to the circus, and a week or so later when the circus left town, he ran away from home with them. True story. Jack said he never regretted it one bit.

After the show was over that night and the crowd had left, Pat and I sat and visited with Tom, his guitar player Andrew, and Jack until about two o'clock in the morning. Naturally Pat told him that I was a bluegrass musician all my life, and when Ramblin Jack found out that I knew Rose Maddox and had played music with her in years past, he was absolutely ecstatic. He told me that Rose was one of his favorite female vocalists of all time, and that they had known each other for many years, and it broke his heart when she passed away. I only wish I could remember the places he told me that they played together in years past. Jack regaled us with stories of the years he spent with Woody Guthrie on the road, and all the good times and hard times they had, but he said he would not change one thing looking back.

That was definitely a magic night, one I shall never forget. I only wish I had of taken a tape recorder with me to get those stories recorded for moments like these are few and far between and are too soon gone from this earth. But how was I to know that a living legend like Ramblin Jack Elliott was gonna show up that night right out of the blue? Also, I must pay more attention to my little notebook and quit overlooking the single sentences that leads to stories like this.

Before I forget, Tom and his guitar player Andrew Harden put on a stellar show that night, and the crowd was definitely a Tom Russell crowd. But the addition of Ramblin Jack Elliott absolutely put a thick layer of good country "frosting"on the show that night. What I wouldn't give to see that show again. Real Americana at its very best!!!



THE DAILY GRIST..."Get Outta My Way”—Kylie Minogue


Pitfalls on the Road to Music
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I like playing music. I bet a lot of you like doing it to. And, nine times out of ten, it’s a no brainer. You grab your instrument and attend a jam or a gig. Piece of cake, right? Not so fast! Evil forces are at work, conspiring to keep you from the musical enjoyment you deserve.

Here are the some of the pitfalls that lay directly in your path - usually when you least expect it!

Getting There
There is no shortage of confounding roadblocks between you and your gig. Getting lost is always a possibility - how many times has your carefully printed-out Google map been completely and utterly wrong. Directions to remote wedding locations are especially notorious. The directions often include things like “Go 20 miles down Old Mill Road then turn right.” Invariably, Old Mill Road is right next to New Mill Road and neither of them have a crossroad at the 20 mile mark - something only discoverable after 30 minutes of driving on each. Did I mention there’s no cell reception on the Mill Roads?

Instrument Mishaps
How many instruments do you bring to a jam or a gig? If you’re a guitar player, you probably bring just one guitar, right? Same if you’re a fiddler? What if you show up with an instrument case, and discover upon arrival that it’s actually an empty case? I’ve seen this happen!

Other common mishaps include forgetting a strap or having the strap button go missing. Do all you guitar players have extra bridge pins in your case? Those pesky little devils can fly out when changing a string and they are darn hard to find sometimes! (They fall between the floorboards of a deck really, really easily!).

Parking Perils
I love the audiences in San Francisco, and they have a vibrant bluegrass scene. But parking can be just awful there, as in other cities, I arrived one hour early to a gig in the San Francisco, then spent 55 minutes to find a place to park, Sometimes, the only option is a parking garage, and the cost to park may quickly eclipse your pay for playing. I played a Farmer’s Market in Walnut Creek one time, and was advised to use a specific garage because they had a special rate for Farmer’s Market attendees. After 4 hours of playing for a total of $30, I went to get my car and the guy said “That’ll be $25 to park.”

“Hey buddy, Have a heart!”, I said. “I just played for 4 hours in the sun, I was told you have a special Farmer’s Market rate.”

“No heart! No special rate!” he yelled. “You pay!!!”

If you have a vehicle towed or stolen while playing at a gig - it really hurts. Same goes for parking tickets.

There isn’t even enough space in this column to go into missing strings, busted instruments, vehicle breakdowns, calendar mishaps, health problems and double-bookings. Given all this, why even bother playing music?

If you have to ask, you’ll never understand! Sure, some days it doesn’t seem worth the hassle, but in the long run, it’s a no-brainer. It IS worth it!


How I Got Hooked
Guest column from Mike Staninec
Tuesday, March 25, 2014


My earliest musical memories from childhood are of classical music that my parents played at home and Czech pop songs on the radio. We lived in what used to be Czechoslovakia until I was 13 years old. My father had a guitar that he occasionally strummed while softly singing some folksongs from his native Ukraine. He never played in front of people and would stop if someone came into the room. My mother put me in classical violin lessons when I was 9 years old. I didn’t do well and hated every minute of it. She finally gave up on me a year later. When I was 12 my dad died after a two year struggle with cancer. A few months later a friend from school came over and saw my dad’s guitar in the living room. He told me he had been taking guitar lessons, grabbed the guitar, tuned it up and played a couple of songs. I asked him to show me and he taught me some basic chords and a few songs. I still remember the first song, it was in E, and also had A and B7 in it, your basic three chord song.

A year later, my mom left for Los Angeles, where she was offered a job in medical research for a year. I came with my grandmother six months later, around Thanksgiving 1966, for what I thought was going to be a six month visit. We never went back and I have been living in California ever since. I only brought a suitcase full of clothes with me when I came and I missed my guitar which I had grown rather fond of by then. A few months later my mom bought me a nylon string folk guitar which I would play for the next few years. I dabbled in classical music a bit and scanned the radio for music that I liked. I gravitated toward country and pretty soon that was the only thing that I would listen to. I liked Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, Jerry Lee Lewis and bought some of their LP’s. I watched some country music shows on TV in the 60’s, including syndicated episodes of Jack Greene, the Stoneman family, Jim and Jesse, and others. I remember seeing Dolly Parton as a guest on the Porter Wagoner show. That was my first exposure to bluegrass and old-time music. I did enjoy the country music of the 60’s, but I also loved the older stuff and was very fond of Jimmie Rodgers. I bought his songbooks as well as other country song books and learned a bunch of songs. Pop music did nothing for me and even though everyone in high school was into rock and raving about it, I just kept listening to country. I completely ignored the Beatles, the Monkeys, and other pop groups of that time.

I graduated from Fairfax high school in LA and enrolled in Occidental College where I stayed for two years. I did find a couple of kindred souls there who liked Merle Haggard and would occasionally play country with me. They would sometimes smoke weed and play Okie from Muskogie. I ended up at UCLA for one quarter in the fall of my third year. It was there, in 1972 that I saw an ad in the school paper for a Doc Watson concert at McCabe’s guitar shop. They described him as the king of flatpickers. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time as I played with a thumbpick - I thought they were referring to a flat top guitar. I had heard Doc on the radio once or twice, so I decided to go and took my girlfriend along. I will never forget that evening – it literally changed my life. I sat there with my mouth open, utterly mesmerized by the beautiful, crisp and clean virtuoso picking of Doc and Merle. I was moved by the musical dialogue between father and son, Doc’s easy manner, his warm, friendly banter, and it make me think about my own dad that I had lost just a few years earlier.

I came back to McCabe’s a few days later and started looking at guitars, because the one I had didn’t look like the ones Doc and Merle played. I bought a Takamine dreadnought, a copy of a Martin D-28. Considering I knew very little about guitars at the time, I did pretty well; I still have that guitar and it comes in handy when my Martin needs to go in the shop. I also bought a book of old-time fiddle tunes and started working them out. It was written in standard musical notation, so I resurrected my ability to read music from my violin lessons. It was a slow process and it took me a long time to make any progress, as I was pretty much on my own. Billy in the Lowground was probably the first fiddle tune I worked on, and forty years later, I still can’t play it very well. I started listening to bluegrass groups and some old-time music as well, often at McCabe’s. I remember seeing Kenny Hall there with a bunch of his friends on stage. That was probably the first serious old-time jam I ever heard and I loved it. One night they had a bluegrass group at McCabe’s that I never heard of, but the word was they were pretty good, so I went. It turned out to be J.D. Crowe with Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglass and Bobby Slone - the ultimate New South line-up. Need I say more? Of course, I was blown away.

In my college years in LA and later in Berkeley, I did have a couple of friends that I occasionally played with. We played mostly instrumental stuff, some fingerpicking, some fiddle tunes. I still remember attending another Doc Watson concert in San Francisco and seeing High Country as the opening act, in 1973. I ended up in San Francisco in 1976 to attend dental school. I quickly discovered Paul’s Saloon and Fifth String next door. I became a regular at Paul’s, sometimes several nights a week. I would listen to the many of the early Bay Area bands there, and particularly enjoyed the all-girl bands Sidesaddle and Any Old Time. I went to the Monday night jams there, but couldn’t always keep up with the semi-professional level of that jam. Somewhere in that scene I found out about the CBA and Father’s Day festival.

I attended my first CBA festival in 1977 and got my membership. Since that time I have only missed one Father’s Day festival, in 1981, when I was living in Japan. It was at these and other local festivals that my love and appreciation of bluegrass and old-time music deepened. I ended up camping with and jamming with the same friends year after year and quickly realized that bluegrass folks are one incredible community. I still remember jam-hopping in the 70’s and always ending up with Rick Cornish in at least one or two jams every day. Being part of that community and making life-long friends is a huge part of the attraction and becomes more important to me with the passing of time.

My musical journey took another turn when my daughter Annie started playing fiddle music at the age of 6, in addition to her Suzuki classical lessons. Having a jamming buddy at home was a blast and watching her blossom musically was a treat. Our family made the rounds of the local jams and festivals and I played back up for her in some contests and performances. She appeared with the Kids on Bluegrass band on stage for ten straight years. I got a huge kick out of seeing my kid take to my favorite hobby like a pig to slop, but, unfortunately for me, she blasted past me and left me in her musical dust by the time she was ten or so.

I did manage sneak into the Atlas Jam House Band on her coattails, though. That band was Annie’s first regular gig. She stayed there for a few years and then moved away to college eventually. I have stayed in the band to this day, and it was through this band that I developed from a shy jammer into a performer. In retrospect I really sucked when I first started with them. I could barely keep time and often got lost in the song. I had a hard time leading songs. Jimbo Trout, the organizer and band leader of the jam did not give me too many pointers beyond using the mikes correctly, but his passive encouragement meant a lot to me, and made it possible for me to help form another band, String Break, which played local gigs for a few years until my life got too crazy busy to do that anymore.

Most of that busyness is due to my three-year old twins. I will give the credit/blame for that to George Martin, an illustrious and prominent CBA member. A few years ago I took the CBA instructional camp to learn the basics of bass. One day in the camp I joined the lunch line and George was standing right in front of me. He looked at me and said: “Now there’s the guy with the best DNA in the camp. Do you know how much money you could make in the sperm bank?” I got a big chuckle out of that indirect compliment to Annie. I thought about it later, and since I was single again at the time, it occurred to me that maybe I should really have more kids - wouldn’t it be great if they turn into pickers? It is too early to tell, but who knows?

Well, to sum it all up, I guess I would give credit mostly to Doc Watson and the CBA for getting me hooked on bluegrass in the 70’s. I am now firmly entrenched in the community and don’t plan on ever leaving. I jam, camp, and socialize with my bluegrass friends. I listen to prominent CBA members when they obliquely suggest I should have more kids. Robert Cornelius, one of my jam buddies now doubles as a dive buddy. I even found my squeeze, Lisa Burns, in the bluegrass community - another prominent CBA and NCBS member. You guys ain’t ever gettin’ rid of me!



THE DAILY GRIST… “Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, There's a land that I heard of, Once in a lullaby.”--Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Today’s Column from Yvonne Tatar
Monday, March 24,2014


Playing music takes you to places and situations you’d probably never imagine. The first of the month, Mike Sr. and I traveled to the Lake Havasu festival Bluegrass on the Beach which is promoted by Larry & Sondra Baker. It’s such a great event and we love the drive through the late winter desert areas to see how things are beginning to bloom, etc. This year our friends Kit and Mary Birkett were caravaning with us in their motorhomes. Did it rain at the festival? Yes, a little, BUT beautiful rainbows encapsulated the festival several times that weekend. Sorta of the icing on the cake, or festival, in this case. Were spirits dampened? No! Did the festival fun ensue? Yes!

Last year at Lake Havasu fest, Mike, Kit & I were jamming one night at our campground and two guys from Manitoba, Canada walked up out of the night with their mandolin and guitar and a terrific jam ensued. This led to another great jam the next night. We exchanged emails and vowed to keep in touch. This year the Manitoba boys, Stephen and Terry, let us know that they would be at the festival again and would be looking forward to another jam with us. Friday evening found us jamming inside our motorhome as it rained outside. And Sunday afternoon found us enjoying another Canadian-American summit.

Delightfully, we got to know the Canadian boys alittle better this year. Between songs, we talked about the weather, where they left -50 degree temps to come to the festival. And then we discussed the drought here in the California and the Southwest. Stephen is a dairy farmer and he had a lot of current information on water usage and worldwide drought concerns that are affecting people globally. Terry is a financial planner so he had some definite takes on the state of current affairs. And let’s not forget our unique discussion on the latest dairy farmer acquisition – robots that milk cows. You heard first here, folks.

They also shared that growing up in a small Canadian town before the internet, they had little access to bluegrass music. They literally relied on one or two bluegrass albums that the large town music stores carried. They learned their bluegrass from those records like the Bluegrass Band Album and couple Bill Monroe LPs. Because of this, they surmise that this is why a great many other Canadian pickers like them are steeped in the traditional bluegrass songs yet today. They also felt that through playing traditional bluegrass songs they somehow could more closely experience the feeling coming out of Kentucky when Bill Monroe was playing bluegrass. This is the nostalgia that bluegrass music holds for them - the idea to re-live those days through the music of the era. “This was the only way we could really feel what the music was since we lived so far away from it.” Indeed, they feel the music captures most Canadians in that way. As such, they weren’t exposed to much progressive bluegrass but stayed playing the more traditional songs even today.

So, through our jams we had a new understanding of why they usually played the more traditional numbers and we played the more progressive numbers which they weren’t as familiar with. It was a real pleasure to hear them sing the high harmonies and traditional numbers of Monroe, Stanley, etc. and they, in turn really enjoyed our more modern choices. Because of our music selections and our current events and history discussions, these jams have now become the annual meeting of the “Polar Vortexans.” At the close, we all shook hands and looked forward to our next summit jam in 2015. And thinking on a larger scale, I think this is only one jam story amongst many others out there happening all the time. Heartwarming.


THE DAILY GRIST…”My advice is, find your musical niche and do it to the best of your ability and most of all, find enjoyment in what you do.”—Jeanie Ramos

Country Is…
Today’s Column from Jeanie Ramos
Sunday, March 23, 2014


I recently went to a Country Music jam at the home of our friends, Jim and Carol Johnston. They live on a mountaintop in Aromas, a quaint little town near the coast. There were many people there that I had met and jammed with at CBA functions. It dawned on me that if it had not been for the CBA, I would not have known any of these wonderful people. Several of us went to the Saturday night concert at the Morgan Hill Grange to see and hear the Central Valley Boys and Quebe Sisters. Of course the place was filled with more CBA folks. On Monday night, we went to Phil’s Fish Market at Moss Landing and it was my pleasure to do a couple songs with The Courthouse Ramblers, a Bluegrass group that Pete Hicks performs with. My association with CBA has brought so many wonderful people and joyful experiences into my life.

In reviewing the CBA’s statement of purpose you will find we are “Dedicated to the furtherance of Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Gospel Music in California. The organization was formed to promote, encourage, foster, and cultivate the preservation, appreciation, understanding, enjoyment, support, and performance of traditional instrumental and vocal music of the United States.”

When I connected with this group, I was already a fan of the music though I knew very few Bluegrass songs by heart. I had quite a few Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe vinyls in my collection and like many people, I had the O’ Brother DVD and CD. Never the less, Country music and Southern Gospel has always been the dominant musical force in my life. It’s what I grew up with and what I’m most comfortable singing.

There doesn’t seem to be an association (like CBA) that is dedicated to the preservation of Good Old Country Music. Fortunately, I have found a core group within CBA who appreciate and enjoy playing the music that I love. Most of them are card-carrying CBA members and are supportive of CBA events. You can find us at the various festivals and camp-outs, easily recognizable by the preponderance of guitars. There is a reason for that of course, country music is more about vocals than instrumentation and the guitar is the best instrument for vocal accompaniment. I’ve had many people come to my jams and say something like, “That ain’t Bluegrass…” and to that I will say, “No, it isn’t.” I have found, however, that many of the Bluegrass pickers also enjoy and appreciate old style country music and they often cycle through our jams.

It’s interesting to note that many of the top bluegrass stars have switched back and forth between the two genres, which tells me that they see the value in both. “Crossover” songs are not uncommon, the lines get blurred and folks will argue over whether a song is bluegrass or country. Of course, it’s easier to differentiate between traditional bluegrass and country than it is to separate some of the contemporary bluegrass. Artists like Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill have flipped back and forth. Rhonda, the Queen of Bluegrass, is now promoting “An Evening of Traditional Country Music” with Daryle Singletary. She has done many concerts with Gene Watson, and you don’t get any more country than Gene Watson (or anymore Bluegrass than Rhonda Vincent). Tom T. Hall had many chart toppers as a country music singer but now, along with his wife, Dixie, has been devoting a good deal of his songwriting talents to Bluegrass.

I don’t know why, but it seems easier for a bluegrass singer to make the switch to country than it is for a country singer to switch to bluegrass. Merle Haggard did an album called The Bluegrass Sessions that fell short of the mark as far as having a Bluegrass sound. Ronnie Reno produced it and Merle had some of the greatest Bluegrass Musicians backing him. I think the reason why it didn’t work was because the songs were country songs and Merle is a country singer. I can relate to this very well, I can sing a bluegrass song but to my ears, it still has a country sound.

Though I know that the CBA focus is on Bluegrass, and rightly so, it has given us Country singers a place to get together with like-minded musicians and singers and enjoy doing what we do. I am grateful that there is room at CBA events for everyone to appreciate and enjoy the music that they love. I believe Country music falls under the category of traditional music of the United States and I’m doing my part to preserve it. My advice is, find your musical niche and do it to the best of your ability and most of all, find enjoyment in what you do. See you at the Father’s Day Festival if not sooner.

THE DAILY GRIST…"You don’t take a photograph, you make it. ”--- Ansel Adams

Hey, Let's Get A Group Photo!
Today's column from Brian McNeal
Saturday, March 22, 2014


Who ever first said these words: “OK, everyone line up against that wall, let's get a group photo,” should be lined up against the wall in front of a firing squad and duly shot.

I can't tell you how the sound of those words makes me cringe. It's worse than the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. I get the same effect when I see photos of this type and I can just hear the words being spoken by the photographer or someone else in the group.

Some of the most unflattering photographs of some of the most image-conscience people are these “Up-Against-The-Wall” shots.

What makes people think a wall is the best backdrop for a photo? I've seen this scenario played out in real life so many times: An ugly block wall with paint pealing off, shadows from a nearby tree and the roof overhang and the tallest people in the group have their heads in that shadow yet others have washed out faces from too much direct sunlight. While all the while there is a serene pasture with horses, trees, a brook, rolling hills and a lot more interesting accoutrements just about 90 degrees to either side of that block wall. Yet the block wall get's everyone's attention. Now I ask you, which would you rather see in the background of your group photo?

Still, I constantly see high-profile musicians with some of the most accolades and awards and supposedly top-notch management teams, line up against the wall for a band photo. Then that shot is used for countless promotional pieces, splattered all over their website and social pages and the ultimately used and re-used by the media that publishes to the world.

I can't help but think that if these same high-level musicians kept their musical ability down to the same level they're willing to accept for their photography that they'd all still be playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” As photography goes, it really is that amateur. And it can be so much better with just a simple change. Eliminate these words from your vocabulary for ever: “LINE UP AGAINST THE WALL.” Really, that's all it would take.

Not to sound like all I do is complain, let me suggest numerous ways your band can have professional looking photography for promo shots even if all you have to work with is your spouse and a cheapo Instamatic camera with no settings or adjustments.

Last year Prescription Bluegrass published a complete series of DIY tips from professional photographer Jan Hudson, who herself is also a bluegrass musician. She offers countless tips on things you can do to improve the look that is going to take you and your career where you want to be. And she's more than willing to address questions that you may have if you'll send them directly to her. I don't know why anyone would not want to take advantage of that kind of offer. How could you lose?

Here's the link for the directory of all of her tips. Just take a look at the right hand sidebar.


Have a great weekend and remember, I'll be looking at your pictures – make 'em good.
Brian McNeal
Prescription Bluegrass Editor and Radio Host.



THE DAILY GRIST..."cur·mud·geon…noun \(?)k?r-'m?-j?n\: 1) a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains; 2) (archaic) miser; 3) Don Denison"--Miriam Webster's Online Dictionary
Today's column from Don Denison
Friday, March 21, 2014


(Editor’s Note—This morning we welcome long-time CBA member and leader Don Denison as the Web team’s new third Friday Welcomer. All you really need to know about Don is that his signature salutation, “Dear Friends,” is like money in the bank.)

Dear Friends:

This will be my first official column for you all since I gave up writing the Presidents Column several years ago. Many things have happened in my life, and with The California Bluegrass Association since then. Suzanne and I had planned to retire and make at least one tour of the nation's best Bluegrass Music Festivals and spend time with friends we had made over the 20 or more years we had worked with the CBA and on our Festival. Sadly, that was not to be, due to personal illness we both had to withdraw from public life. I was able to overcome the problems that I had, sadly Suzanne was not so fortunate. This June, God willing, I will attend my first Fathers Day Festival in several years, I'm not counting the brief appearance I made with my brother for Suzanne's Memorial Service last June. I expect that I will find that the festival has changed somewhat over these last years, but I am sure that the warmth and feeling of family and community will still be present.

Many of you all will not remember me or Suzanne as we just disappeared for several years. Some of you all will recognize me as the curmudgeon who appeared on the message board late last summer when an invitation to make comments about the festival was extended, I have since regularly made comments on various subjects that have interested me. So what has been the reason for this sustained affection for the CBA, its events and our members? I have, over the years often written about these things and will make a short summary of what I think the "Glue" is that makes us more than a group of members that enjoy Bluegrass Music.

I noticed this feeling of community when I was first persuaded to attend the festival in 1985 by a member some of you all may still remember named Wayne Williams. Wayne was a friend of many of our charter members especially with Jake Quesenberry. When I entered the fairgrounds, I felt after just a few minutes that I had become a part of a community that shared not only a love for the music, but many other interests as well. Politics, Religion, and other social differences were put on the back burner when each person came through the gate. There were people jamming, sharing meals, talking about music, catching up with old friendships and just generally having a good time. I came back for the final Labor Day Festival that Fall, and while it was much smaller, I found the feeling of family and community even stronger. I met people that June and September that have remained friends since then, I signed up that Fall for membership and have never regretted it. The Festival has changed, it is much larger, more efficiently run and better planned, Suzanne and I were, and I still am, proud of being a part of building the festival and the CBA as a whole.

I hope to in the next few months to call attention to some of the people who made changes that are still with us, and perhaps some of those changes we didn't keep. I invite you all to go into your memories and perhaps write about and tell me and others who visit the message board what and who you remember that has made this association such a wonderful family for so many of us these many years. I for one don't want to lose that warm feeling of friendship that was extended to me just because I came through the gate that June in '85 Remembrance of the past will temper the changes of the present and future and so preserve that wonderful feeling we all experienced when we first discovered The California Bluegrass Association. The CBA family has helped me through some rough times, it has sustained many others as well. I am so glad to be back with you all, I hope to see or hear from many of you, and God willing I'll see you all in Grass Valley soon.

Your Friend

Don Denison



THE DAILY GRIST..."I played what I had in my head.”—Herschel Sizemore

Bluegrass in Tinseltown
Today's column from James Reams
Thursday, March 20, 2014


I recently had the privilege of presenting my documentary “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass” at the Bluegrass on Broadway Film Festival in Redwood City, CA. I met a lot of wonderful people at this event but filmmaker Rick Bowman and his film “Herschel Sizemore: Mandolin in B” made a huge impression on me.

Here was a guy that wasn’t particularly a fan of bluegrass music, though he was familiar with it having grown up in Roanoke, VA; and yet, he had put together a really fine piece of film honoring arguably one of the best mandolin players of our time. AND…he funded the whole project out of his own pocket! Bluegrass lovers everywhere owe a debt of gratitude, or at least their pocket change, to this intrepid filmmaker for rescuing memories and memorabilia before they were lost forever.

In 2012 the Roanoke music community held a musical benefit to help defray the costs associated with cancer treatments for both Herschel and his wife, Joyce. When Rick’s family mentioned the event to him, his “spidey sense” told him to be there. Not being a jet-setting Hollywood producer (yet), Rick opted to take a commercial flight to Roanoke where he filmed most of the documentary — as they say in show biz — on location. Being right there in the thick of things allowed him to capture some very special moments and talk to some pretty important folks about Herschel and his impact on the music world.

Featuring performances by Del McCoury, the Seldom Scene, and The Travelers to name a few, this film is packed with great music and commentary from musicians that played with and/or were influenced by Herschel Sizemore. The list of those interviewed reads like a “Who’s Who” of Bluegrass.

I was particularly excited that he was able to include a rare video clip from Herschel in his heyday when he played with the Shenandoah Valley Cut-ups. Watching Herschel tuck into a tune with his open style of chording reminded me once again why I love this music!

Rick’s insightful interview techniques got Herschel talking about the moment when he first knew he was going to play the mandolin. He also got Herschel to reveal some insights about his most famous tune, “Rebecca,” like how he came up with the “crooked measure” associated with this bluegrass favorite. Herschel confessed, “I played what I had in my head.” All I can say is “Wow!”

John Lawless of Bluegrass Today nailed it during his on-screen interview when he said that Herschel represented “the first real departure from what Bill Monroe did with the mandolin.” Herschel was the bridge between the Monroe-style and the style of today. His picking is described variously as “elegant, concise, clean, driven” and I can certainly agree with all of that. But what really hit home for me was David Grisman’s comment that Herschel had “just kinda that sparkle and perfection.”

This film contains a nice balance of performances from the benefit concert and interviews with fellow musicians combined with archival footage/photos of Herschel and conversations with the man himself. It’s an amazing piece of work that captures his “sparkle” perfectly.

So, here’s where you – the viewer – comes in. Films like this don’t get made for free, especially films that require the purchase of music rights! I oughta know because that’s what I ran up against when making the “Pioneers” film. Neither of these films will show up on the marquee of your local movie theater nor make their way to distribution through Netflix or cable TV. I have no delusions of being nominated for Oscar, probably the closest I’ll come to that is eating an Oscar Meyer wiener at a screening.

We need a “grass roots” movement among bluegrass lovers everywhere to support these filmmaking efforts. Just as Christian movies are finally gaining credibility and getting better with each effort, bluegrass films can reach new heights and break down barriers across generations, genres, and global boundaries.

Rick and I are offering screenings of our films (with personal appearances for Q&A when possible) to bluegrass associations worldwide. Take advantage of this opportunity! We’ve got all kinds of stories about making these films that will entertain you for at least as long as a TV sitcom…and we won’t even patch in a laugh track!

If you’ve seen either of these films, send us your comments…good and bad! We learn from one and are inspired by the other. Talk to your friends and fellow musicians; encourage them to see these films. Ask your association, or even your church, to schedule a screening. Order copies of the films to give as gifts or as prizes at local events. Interview us or write a review for your association’s newsletter. And for you media gluttons, post information on Facebook and other social media like Twitter. It’s all about getting the word out.

Bluegrass has always been a “word of mouth” kind of community; help us spread the word and hopefully inspire more filmmakers to consider bluegrass music for their next project. Together we can this preserve this rich heritage for future generations.

Contact Rick Bowman at backyardgreenfilms@gmail.com for screenings or comments. Additional information about “Herschel Sizemore: Mandolin in B” can be found at Backyard Green Films.. You can reach James Reams at www.jamesreams.com For more information about his film “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass” check out his website and click the Pioneers menu to see the film trailer, reviews, and more.


Subtle Signals
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, March 19, 2014


You’re watching a bluegrass band perform at a festival. They’re terrific - they hit the stage, jumped into their first tune with minimal preamble and they’re very tight. They squeeze 14 songs into their 50 minute set. Their set has a perfect flow - strong beginning, nice emotional ride through the middle, and finishing with great energy. They seemed flawless. How did they do that?

Most likely, it was intense rehearsal of the setlist. Inside the setlist (and likely for many songs that didn’t get played that day), they spent hours in intense rehearsal of the songs. They have worked out all the elements of playing a song or tune that you don’t want to be a mystery when you hit a festival stage: The kickoff and the “outro”. The proper key. The sequence of solos AND the fills. The vocal harmonies and the phrasing. Very little was left to chance. Or was it?

A really well-rehearsed, talented band wouldn’t necessarily need the entire setlist carved in stone. Whoever acts as the musical leader could have decided on the fly,based upon the crowd’s reaction, or just a hunch, decided that the next song should have a certain vibe and discreetly mutter to the band off mic what the next song was. Being well-rehearsed, they all knew the song and what key it’s in and had no trouble being ready almost immediately.

But it’s an imperfect world, and even the best bands consist of fallible humans. Why don’t they ever make mistakes? How do they always know what to do? I think they do make some mistakes, but usually they’re little ones, nearly undetectable to the fans. And unlike most of us, they don’t make the “oops!” face that you and I make, involuntarily.

And it’s fun to watch the professionals really closely while they perform - there’s a whole game within a game, going on at breakneck speed. Even with a polished act, there are subtle signals passing amongst the musicians. You can catch a musician accidentally stepping on another’s and an almost imperceptible “my bad” facial expression flash across his face.

In a jam, there’s no room, nor need for such subtlety. We yell “Banjo!” when it’s a banjo player’s break and we do the exaggerated foot raise to end the song, or the “twirly finger” when there’s one more go-around. That’s one of the first things you want to eliminate from the sight of an audience that paid to see you. With everyone paying close attention onstage, a solo can be assigned on the fly with a quick look or a slight chin nod.

Easy to say, hard to do. We’re only human. We know we should pay attention, but sometimes, we shut our eyes to enjoy the moment, or find ourselves distracted by a comely woman in the audience. Sometimes an “Alphonse and Gaston” argument (“You take it! No YOU take it!”) goes unresolved before the solo is supposed to start. Or the three part vocal stack suddenly has two tenors and a lead. Then the charade falls apart.

This is why we pay for the tickets to see the pros. They make it look easy, and we know darn well how hard it really is!



Families that sing together (you finish the sentence)
Today's guest column from Chuck Poling
Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Bluegrass music has long been a family affair. This includes sibling duos or trios, husbands and wives, and entire pea-pickin’ families. There are lots of various permutations with uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws, and outlaws, whatever. Some bands come out of a tradition passed on from previous generations. Others discover that playing bluegrass music is a way to bring the family closer together.

Well, we’ve got a family value for you. A free night of bluegrass and Americana music at the friendliest little coffeehouse this side of Stanyan Street.

Free Range Fridays
Presented by Jeanie & Chuck
March 21st
At the Velo Rouge Café
798 Arguello Blvd. @ McAllister
7 to 9:30 pm
Free/All ages welcome

Go to this page and Like us, whether you like it or not.
https://www.facebook.com/FreeRangeFridays

with The Dim Lights
Jeanie & Chuck

Plus special guests
The Powell Sisters (from Colorado)

https://www.facebook.com/TheDimLights
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Phoebe-and-Harper-The-Powell-Sisters/275535375884083

Jeanie and Chuck (that’s us) have been making music together for over 30 years and show no sign of giving it up anytime soon. We specialize in sad, bitter, lonely songs that in no way reflect the state of our marriage. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

We’ll be aided and abetted by good ole reliable, rockin’ Pat Campbell on bass, along with Nate Levine, our friend and neighbor who’ll be pickin’ a couple numbers on his guitar.

Playing the tweener set are teen sisters Phoebe and Harper Powell from Colorado. The Powell Sisters come with an enthusiastic recommendation from our friend Heidi Clare (Reeltime Travelers, The Wronglers), which was all we needed to hear. But we went ahead and checked out some YouTubes of the sisters and we were really impressed. It’s a fortuitous turn of events that their visit to San Francisco aligns with the Free Range Fridays cosmos.

The Dim Lights are a fine example of a family band that doesn’t hail from any particular hill or holler (they’re from Pacifica, not Paducah) but has enthusiastically embraced playing bluegrass music together as an exercise in togetherness. Vicki and Avram Frankel, along with daughter Dana are joined by master banjo ninja Larry Cohea. We’ve known the Frankels for years and have jammed with them on many occasions, here in the Bay Area and at various festivals around California. They have a regular gig at the Moose Lodge in Pacifica – we’ve been, and the experience is a big meaty slice of Americana covered in a hearty bluegrass sauce. Mmmm. Mmmm.

You know, we like to play lots of different types of music, but we’ve just been on a bluegrass jag lately. Maybe it’s because this balmy spring weather has got us thinking about outdoor festivals and parking lot pickin’. Well, it’s a little early in the year for camping out, but we’re going to do what we can to spread the good news to our fellow citizens. With some events designed to get out some crowds promote the California Bluegrass Association.

The Bluegrass Spring Jubilee
Sponsored by Chuck Poling, your CBA representative for San Francisco

Sunday, April 6
Bluegrass Jam and Show
with One Lane Ahead
at The Lucky Horseshoe
453 Cortland Avenue
Jam 4 pm – Show 8 pm
FREE

Saturday, April 26
Jubilee Concert & Jam Session
Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick sing the Music of Vern and Ray
Windy Hill
at St. Cyprian’s Church
2097 Turk Street
Jam Session 5 to 7:30 FREE
Concert 8 to 11 pm/$15 Adv/$18 Door
For tickets, go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/599067
FREE PARKING at Turk and Masonic

Saturday, May 10
Bluegrass Pickin’ Picnic
in Golden Gate Park/Dahlia Picnic Area
Just east of the Conservatory of Flowers
Noon to 5 pm
FREE
http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/dahlia-dell-picnic-area/



THE DAILY GRIST…” For you can’t hear Irish tunes without knowing you’re Irish, and wanting to pound that fact into the floor”—Jennifer Armstrong

It’s Not Easy Being Green
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Monday, March 17, 2014


I’m very proud to claim Irish heritage on this Saint Patrick’s Day, but as Kermit the frog said, it’s not easy being green. My surname is derived from the Irish name O’Daniel and I have no idea why my ancestors emigrated from the Emerald Isle to the “Greenfields of America” about three hundred years ago. The O’Daniels settled in Virginia and some of them eventually made their way to South Carolina where I was raised.

I never heard any mention of the fact that we were Irish while I was growing up. My Irishness has been diluted by Americanism but I still admire the pluck of those hardy folks even though I can’t trace my roots back to anyone still living there. Ireland has always fascinated me. It’s a troubled land. Writers and poets flourish there. Maybe because they know a lot about suffering.

I’ve been to Ireland a couple of times. It’s a wonderful place. The people are friendly and it seems as if they haven’t a care in the world. On my bike ride through Sonoma county yesterday I admired the hillsides transformed from brown to green by the recent rains and I thought about how the hillsides still looked very pale compared to Ireland, where green grows on green as far as you can see. Some day I’ll go back to Ireland and take my mandolin with me. I’ll play Irish tunes late into the night at an Irish music “session”. Bucket list for sure.

Irish music is a lot different from bluegrass. But since bluegrass is imbued with Irish music, most of us bluegrass fans like to play and listen to the undiluted versions once and a while, especially today. Red Haired Boy will probably get a lot of air time today. Gilderoy and Garryowen lots of people know. I’ll be sure to play Minstrel Boy, maybe sing it too:

The minstrel boy to the war has gone
in the fields of death you will find him
His father’s sword he has girded on
With his wild harp slung behind him

And land of song, sang the warrior bard
Though all the work betrays you
One sword at least thy rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee


Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage. Everybody’s Irish today. And we bluegrass fans are luckier than most who have the luck of the Irish. We can enjoy the Irish influences in our music every day. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everybody!


CBA Music Camp 2014: Old Time Stringband and Harmony Singing
Geoff Sargent, CBA Music Camp Liaison
Peter Langston, CBA Music Camp Director

Sunday March 16, 2014

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, the countdown has commenced to our 2014 CBA Summer Music Camp. I hear the clocks ticking away, too slowly for my tastes, waiting for the beginning of Music Camp at noon on Sunday June 8 at Grass Valley, CA.

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe”. This is a little rhyme from old England that is supposed to describe what a bride should wear at her wedding. And what, do you ask, does this have to do with the 2014 Music Camp? Well nobody is proposing a Music Camp wedding, at least one not encouraged by a shotgun, but we do have something old and something new, but the new is old…as in Old Time.

This year, Old-Time Stringband, will be taught by Masha Goodman & Geff Crawford. If I’m not mistaken, Geff is actually pronounced as Jeff, the same as Geoff, but no matter.
Masha and Geff are a dynamo pair of Old Time teachers and promise to live up to their reputation and teach an energy-filled, fun-ergetic, introduction to playing in an Old-Time Stringband. Be prepared to learn one or two tunes a day, and work on right hand techniques and style. Beginning players will learn to find the "fenceposts" of a tune, more advanced folks will learn to add variations drawn from Old Time tradition. Masha will teach clawhammer banjo methods including basic frailing, drop-thumbing, double-thumbing, the "Galax lick", and where and when to use them. Geff will teach fiddle bowing, rhythms, melody, variation and style. This class will bring fiddles and banjos together to hear how they intertwine, learn some intros and endings, and put together a little band, so other old-time instruments are welcome too. If you're a little shy about playing with others, or joining in a jam, or want to learn to pick tunes up by ear on the fly, join us. There's a reason they call it "Playing" music, come have fun!

Masha Goodman Crawford has been playing Old-Time banjo, Irish tinwhistle, singing, calling dances, and flatfoot clogging since the late 1970's. One of the original founders of the Chicago Barn Dance Company, she has performed & taught at the Strawberry Music Festival, Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention, University of Chicago Folk Festival, Wheatlands Folk Festival, Old Town School of Folk Music, Eastbourne Folk Festival, and many more venues across the US and in Europe.

Geff Crawford has been playing Old-Time fiddle for over 30 years, and banjo, guitar, ukulele & mandolin. He has studied & played with such masters as Melvin Wine, Charlie Acuff, Mike Seeger, John Hartford, Clyde Davenport, Paul David Smith, Earl Collins, Art Stamper, Frank George, Tom Paley, Walt Koken and others. The author of the "Old-Time Rambler" column for the CBA website, Geff is a regular performer at the Strawberry Music Festival, teaches fiddle, plays for barndances, and does school programs and assemblies.

Masha & Geff perform together as a duo called "Old Soles" and with their band, "Orange Possum Special". They had a blast performing in the newly revived Winter's Night Yeow! show and are looking forward to an extended tour next year. Geff enjoys reading calculus for fun, rehairing his fiddle bows, and playing the ancient strategy game of Go, recently logging his 16,000th game online. Masha enjoys riding her Arabian mare Ziva when she can, and spent many years living and traveling in a horse-drawn Gypsy wagon. She tries to keep Geff away from Ziva on bow-rehairing days. They've taught at the CBA Music Camp every year since 2009, and are known for their patient, supportive, and light-hearted teaching style.


Harmony Singing is one of my personal bugaboos. Oh I can sing harmonies alright, but my harmonies are usually sung in a key that has no earthly relationship to the melody I’m trying to accompany. This year our level 2/3 harmony class will be taught by none other than Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum. Only one word comes to my mind for these guys…….awesome! The harmony class is one of the most popular classes in Music Camp and you need to hustle to enroll to get a spot for this one!

This workshop will teach you the skills needed to hear and add harmony parts to classic country and bluegrass songs. Plan to listen, deconstruct the parts, and put them back together as a group. And to use what you learn…or learn by using, students will break up into smaller groups so that everyone will get the chance to hear themselves blend and phrase together in a small ensemble. We'll deconstruct what makes Bluegrass singing so special and what differentiates it from other singing styles. You will be coached in the basic skills that make a good harmony singer, breathing, tone production, phrasing, blend, finding the right key for your voice. Duet, trio and quartet harmony singing will be explored, using the greats of bluegrass as examples and inspiration: The Osborne Brothers with Red Allen, Flatt and Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, and of course Bill Monroe. What IS it that makes that chill run down your spine when the Stanley’s sing an A sus 4 or an A 9 chord?

Laurie has been singing and playing bluegrass, old-time, country and traditional jazz for a really long time. A dedicated teacher as well as a performer, she ran "Bluegrass Week" at the Augusta Heritage Workshops for 10 years, and was the coordinator of "Bluegrass at the Beach" for over a dozen years. She has taught at PSGW, CBA Music Camp, British Columbia Bluegrass Week, SAM-W, Telluride Academy, Rocky Grass Academy, Wintergrass Vocal Intensive, and many others. When not touring, Laurie teaches and produces recordings. Recently, she produced the critically-acclaimed "Bittersweet," by traditional music legend Alice Gerrard. Laurie was voted "Female Vocalist of the Year" twice by the International Bluegrass Music Association, has been nominated for numerous Grammys and won one for her singing on "True Life Blues: the Songs of Bill Monroe.”

Tom Rozum has been a professional musician for nearly four decades, playing in bluegrass, country, and western swing bands. Since 1986, he's been best known for touring internationally (over 21 countries) with Laurie Lewis. With her, he has also recorded three duet CDs (their first being nominated for a Grammy) and has played and sung on most of her other recordings. The two have performed a half dozen times both on the Grand Ole Opry and A Prairie Home Companion.

Tom's also a veteran teacher, having been on the teaching staff of Bluegrass at the Beach, The Rockygrass Academy, The Augusta Heritage Workshops, The Teluride Bluegrass Academy, California Coast Music Camp, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, the CBA Music Camp, the Swannanoa Gathering, British Columbia Bluegrass Camp, and has served as musical director for the Marsh Youth Theater's producton of "Bound For Glory".

Registration opened at noon on February 7th, 2014 and over half of the music camp slots have been filled, so get your web browser over to our Music Camp website at http://www.cbamusiccamp.org to register and to get more breaking news. If you have other questions, please contact us at info@cbamusiccamp.org. Keep on jamming and we hope to see ya'll at Music Camp, and in April at the CBA Spring Campout.



THE DAILY GRIST..."Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”-?Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Clarence White
Today's column from Cameron Little
Saturday, March 15, 2014


(Editor's Note--A few months ago, yours truly was informed by his wife of nearly 30 years that said wife would base her decision on whether to see the 30th year out to its end and begin a second 30 on the editor’s willingness to reduce significantly the number of hours per day spent doing what the editor is doing right now, which is updating the fifteen items on cbaontheweb.org which need updating 7/24/365. More than a little interested in finishing said 30 and launching the second 30 years of marital bliss, the editor took immediate action, one of which was to require the 23 Welcome columnists to submit their contributions each month in "postable condition", which is to say ready to post without editor-intervention and which, in truth is, a lot of work and includes learning the basics of the Internet computer language HTML…which stands for hyper text mark up language but which, according to a recent Pew Foundation poll, is believed by slightly less than a majority of Americans to mean happiness through more links. Well, not only did each and every one of the Welcomers agree to the new plan, each took the time to learn a big bunch of new stuff and, due in large part to their efforts, the second triade of sweet, sweet domesticity is due to start the 21st of next month, (gift registry set up at Walmart, Sonora, under the name CORNISH.) All good news. What wasn’t anticipated, however, (in the biz we call this unintended consequences) is several of the columnists have, in just two short months, mastered said hyper text mark up language to the point that…we’ll, you see in Cameron’s column today. Let’s just say that Mary Shelly nailed it in her American classic horror story.)

The topic of my column this month was all decided and mapped out. Ready to go, actually. All decided, mapped out and ready to go until a 2:00am Facebook post changed it all. The legendary Roland White (he of the impeccable bluegrass pedigree, one of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, past member of the Kentucky Colonels, and who, coincidentally, will gracing the main stage with his band at the CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival this June), had shared a photo of his brother, the also legendary Clarence White. It’s a photo of Clarence playing his, wouldn’t you know it, legendary Telecaster guitar. And as with all things Clarence White, I got hooked and before long I was searching the web for more details. By a stroke of good fortune I found an outstanding series of articles done by Lance Davis.

If you hang out with bluegrass people for very long, you’re sure to be hearing stories. Lot’s of stories. The Davis articles take you on a ride that I guarantee you will not forget. They’re intimate and well-researched by a real master-author-fan. It’s a fantastic in-depth treatment that includes embedded sound and video files which help demonstrate Clarence’s impact on the music world. The articles are done chronologically, and Davis invites you to walk alongside as he delves into the life of Clarence White.

The articles are an informative read, and I’d highly recommend you take the time to check them out if you haven’t already. To get you started, here’s a link for Part 1 of Lance’s series:

http://www.adioslounge.com/clarence-white-and-his-bluegrass-bebop-1964-65-part-1/


Here’s another quick article featuring some classic Clarence White and Doc Watson at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Flat out fantastic:

http://www.adioslounge.com/the-day-doc-watson-met-clarence-white/


And for those of you inclined to the 1954 FenderTele side of things, here’s a link to a 2004 Vintage Guitar article featuring Marty Stuart:

http://www.martystuart.com/zArt-VintageGuitar4-04.htm


Here’s Roland’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/rolandwhitemusic


(Cameron Little is taking Emergency Medical Responder courses at the moment as well as keeping things bluegrass at his new and cozy home in the Sierra. He always makes time for Clarence White.)


THE DAILY GRIST..."The only way to keep a governor from becoming a secretary is to sidetrack him off into the presidency."--Will Rogers

The Wall
Today's column from Cliff Compton
Friday, March 6, 2014


I’m going to Washington D.C. in April. A gift from my children, who saved their money for a year to send me there. I’d had a father daughter day one Saturday, and while sitting at a bistro in downtown Sacramento, I had mentioned that I always wanted to see the wall in D.C., that stark memorial that honored the fallen in the Vietnam war. And as I talked about it, about the way that war affected my life, my daughter was listening, and developing a plan that will culminate in my visit this April to our nation’s capital.

It’s funny, now that it’s about time to go, the thoughts that roam around the inside of my head…I’m thinking of that song, “the ballad of the green beret”, and how it was the first song I ever learned on the guitar. I’m thinking about Pete Seeger, and “where have all the flowers gone”. I’m thinking about being dressed in dress greens and going to see “Woodstock” at the post theatre at fort Lewis Washington, and watching Richie Havens sing “Freedom, and” handsome Johnny” and I’m thinking about the night when I was in the hospital pushing an I.V. pole to the restroom at about 2 o’clock in the morning at fort Lewis when I walked by the bed of a young soldier missing half a leg, both of his eyes, with withered hands and a face covered with the grey pocks of shrapnel and was confronted with a clear and cogent understanding of the ugliness of war. But what is odd to me, is that my clearest memory of that young man was that he was singing in a soft and raspy voice the song “teen angel” and it seemed so out of place in the midst of the horror of that room.
Now there are a lot of things that I’m interested in seeing. I’m hoping somebody will be protesting something. Protesters always have good music, and generally they’re interesting people. Don’t really care what they’re protesting. I’d be there for the music… and I’ve got a few words I’d like to speak to that large Lincoln sitting in that larger chair. Nothing real important, just a few things I’d like to get off my chest.

There is that Smithsonian display of early American music. Now that’s worth a trip by itself, and there are those cherry blossoms that I’m hoping will be kind enough to bloom. And maybe I’ll ride down to Arlington and see the rows and rows of white stone. Or maybe not. My father is buried in one of those in St. Louis and one of those places is enough for me.



I don’t plan to visit congress. I’ve seen enough liars in my life.



Things have changed a lot since my soldiering days. I was young and I am no longer. And I’m going to D.C. I’m not sure I’ll recognize it. This is not the same country I was raised in and that white house doesn’t always feel like my house. But that wall…That is a wall I will always be a part of. There are names there that are familiar, and memories I will not forget.

© 2014 MicrosoftTermsPrivacyDevelopersEnglish (United States)
© 2014 MicrosoftTermsPrivacyDevelopersEnglish (United States)



THE DAILY GRIST..."I know what you are thinking. Here’s another Hollywood dilettante hitching a ride on the bluegrass gravy train...” -- Steve Martin during a performance with the Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell, broadcast on PBS.

Dueling with decibels
Today’s column from George Martin
Thursday, March 13, 2014


We often joke about bluegrass lyrics. It occurred to me long ago that a large proportion of the residents of Southern Appalachia must be blue- (or brown, never black or hazel) eyed girls waiting faithfully for the singer who is “going back someday.” And there’s the old one about what happens when you play a bluegrass record backward: your dog comes back to life, you get your pickup truck back and Momma gets out of prison.

But seriously, folks, lyrics are what sell the song. There are a precious few groups that get by with hot picking, but in general good bluegrass is good singing and good singing needs good lyrics.

I tell you that to tell you this: Barbara and I went to the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Folk Festival last week. We always enjoy that show (and thanks so much to Mark Hogan, Colleen Arroyo and the folks from the Sonoma County Folk Society who work so hard on it each year).

We got there during the dinner break as my own band had an early afternoon gig in Southern Marin, so the first band we saw was High Country. It was a good start: hard-driving traditional bluegrass, mostly classic, much-loved songs and (the point of this essay) easily understandable lyrics.

I am no acoustic expert but it seems to me that with its high ceiling and hard surfaces, even with a good-sized crowd the Sebastopol Community Center is a difficult place to fill with music. But Paul Knight was on the board and High Country was happily in our ears.

Rita Hosking followed, and things weren’t quite as acoustically clear. Rita has a beautiful voice and writes lovely songs, but she doesn’t always enunciate perfectly and some of the lyrics go missing. As a singer-songwriter she is doing original material that may not be familiar to everyone, so every syllable is important.

Rita was joined on a couple of songs by her teen-age daughter, Cora Feder, an excellent clawhammer banjo player. We talk a lot in bluegrass about brother harmony, but when you hear this mother-daughter blend it puts the idea of angel choirs in your head. “Celestial” is the only word for the music they make.

Front Country showed up next. I think their lead singer, Melody Walker, could stand on the stage at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, unamplified, and be heard just fine back in the cheap seats. But her band was loud and, again, some of the lyrics (and many of the band’s tunes are originals) got lost in the mix.

But things really started circling the drain when the final act, Missy Raines and the New Hip, took the stage. I want to emphasize I am not some old fart grousing about her music being “no part of nothing.” I have heard Missy play with Eddie Adcock, the Claire Lynch Band and as a duo with Jim Hurst. She is a killer bass player (seven times IBMA bassist of the year) and has an engaging smoky alto voice.

I was looking forward to hearing her new material, and unfortunately I am still looking forward to it. She had a drummer who was surrounded by several microphones that served only to muddy up the PA system and drown out her voice. She had an electric guitar player with a loud amp and a bunch of stomp pedals on the floor for distortion, reverb, etc. Whatever vocal was left in the mix after the drummer did his work was obliterated by the guitar man.

(For guitar geeks, that electric axe was a point of interest. It was a Silvertone (Sears Roebuck house brand) semi-hollowbody, double cutaway with a Bigsby tremelo from, I’m guessing, the 1970s. Cool, but not in this context.)

Not only were the lyrics unintelligible, the band was much louder than the other groups. Barbara and I left our seats in the front and retreated to the middle of the auditorium. After one more song we went to the very rear. And after another song or two, we simply left.

Missy Raines may have a repertoire that could bring me to tears, but I’ll never know. She might have sung a tune that would become my very favorite song, that would have propelled me to buy her CD, but that’s not going to happen.

Louder is not necessarily better.

Department of shameless promotion: Bluegrass bass player (and father of Fiddling Annie) Michal Staninec came by that gig my band was playing last weekend and shot a video. You can find it on YouTube by searching for: Prairie Rose Plays Big City. I’ve written about being a bluegrass band that doesn’t play bluegrass (because the people we play for mostly don’t know Bill Monroe from Marilyn Monroe). This is a sample of what we do play.


The Search for the Perfect Capo
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, March 12, 2014


One of the most ubiquitous accoutrements to bluegrass players is…. the capo. (Sometimes called a “cheater bar”.)

A cursory search of the internet shows the capo to be much older that you might think (17th century!). Apparently, the word itself comes from the Italian phrase “Cape Tasto” which means “Head Fret” - what we usually call the nut. The notion of moving the nut easily allowing for quick key changes while preserving first-position chording is not just a bluegrass thing. Bluesmen have always used capos, and even rockers like Keith Richards utilize capos.

But not every rocker has a capo in his or her guitar case, but you’ll find a capo in pretty much any bluegrass guitarist’s instrument case.

My first experience with a capo was pre-bluegrass. I don’t remember why I even got it. It consisted of a rubberized bar with an elastic strap. It was kind of tricky to install - it took some effort with two hands. I don’t recall using it very much, but I do recall wearing it out. Eventually, the eyelets that were used to anchor the elastic strap wore out and the thing became useless.

I remember seeing a picture of somebody on one of my albums with something clamped on the headstock of their guitar, and I wondered if that was some sort of fancy tuner. Later I realized it was a Kyser-style capo, and that was the next one I got and it’s a really goodone, in my opinion. It’s super easy to use (only takes one hand) and it clamps conveniently on the headstock when you’re not using it. It was a little funky looking though -- you can see the handle of the thing sticking up when it’s on your guitar neck, and it’s easy to bump when waving your arms around. (Don’t ask why I know this.)

After a time of using the Kyser, I noticed a lot of bluegrassers using a very sleek, modern looking capo. Very low profile - all you can see when it’s deployed is a neat chrome bar. “What IS that?”, I thought. “What holds that on? Where can I get one?”. It turned out to be the amazing Shubb capo, and it’s become my capo of choice, for two reasons. One you already know - it looks slicker than deerguts on a doorknob. If I can’t play slickly, maybe I can look slick trying to play slickly.

The other good thing is, in my opinion, the Shubb seems to have the surest clamping power without distorting the strings. It does take two hands to install, but when you’ve done it enough times, it becomes second nature, liking putting a ponytail tie on. Its only drawback: it doesn’t easily fasten to the headstock, so it usually goes in a pocket (or on a nearby car bumper, picnic table or stump) when not being used. Ergo, it is the easiest capo to lose.

There’s another cool version, one I’ll call the “Paige” style (sometimes called a stirrup style.). This type is fastened around the neck, instead of being a C-shape with an open end. These can also present a sleek, low profile to the audience, and once installed, you can loosen it up enough to slide up over the nut and remain in place for the next use - and even fit in the guitar case, making it the hardest capo to lose (yay!).

The downside, you can overtighten it and strip the threads or worse, damage your neck’s finish or even worse, crack the neck, To be fair, my Paige-style capo is not a Paige brand, but a heavy brass version I got from John Pearse. It’s a monster and I could crush the neck of my D28 to dust with it. It does work well, though.

This is all have to say about capos. If you really want to talk about capos, look up my beloved bandmate Lynn Quinones. She has spent approximately $30,000 on capos in the 10 or so years I’ve known her, and I believe she still on her quest for The Perfect Capo.





Challenge to Festivals: Weather & Capitalization
Today's column from Ted Lemann
Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Bluegrass festivals, especially mid-range and small ones, are facing twin challenges threatening their continued existence. Severe weather accompanied by apparently changing weather patterns and serious under-capitalization are making it difficult or impossible to attract and maintain the size and quality of audiences that would make it possible to book bands and schedule events to assure their continuance. During the past year we've seen an increase in the pattern of unpredictability as the seasons appear to be in a state of transition along with the weather patterns. This year, the entire eastern half of the U.S. has been plagued by extreme cold accompanied by extensive rain and cold.

During the past couple of years, we've seen dangerously hot weather and highly uncomfortable wet weather wherever we go. These variable weather patterns suggest that removal to appropriate indoor facilities would serve to make the event more predictable and manageable. A large number of people who attend bluegrass events, according to our experience, are still people who do so by hooking up their trailer or driving their motor homes to relatively nearby events. Nevertheless, it still appears to us, in our travels, that the vast majority of those people are from the state in which the event is being held. Even in Florida, where a lot of snowbirds come to winter festivals, most license plates are from Florida, and many people we talk to are traveling less than 100 miles. Meanwhile, though at many events music is continual from noon until 11:00 PM, seats are largely empty during the heat of the day, around both sides of the dinner break, and in the late evening. Jammers, who've been up all night because the stage show never ends must find times and places to get their jamming in while seeing and hearing the bands they want to encounter, but thereby making the seats look empty much of the time. Vendors at many of the festivals we attend continue to offer unhealthy food choices at unconscionably high prices, making it even more important to return to the camper for any kind of balanced meal.

A second factor threatening many bluegrass festivals lies in their being under-capitalized. The place where under-capitalization most hurts a festival lies in making it difficult to book anchor bands that will attract a strong and sizable audience. At a minimum, a good lineup must feature at least two good national bands, several other bands with recognizable national or regional appeal, and at least a couple of local or regional bands seeking to break into greater prominence. Showcases, band contests, and open stage events may help in this latter category. Attracting such talent requires promoters to be able to put out up-front money to schedule and book top bands at least a year in advance to permit publicity and organization to progress. It also requires sufficient funds available to be able to reserve facilities. Unless the promoter is lucky enough to have a stake or agreement with a venue, this is prohibitively expensive. Meanwhile, upgrading a personally owned facility to meet a state's safety and health requirements is also costly. Too many events find these combinations of circumstances too expensive and are forced to disband after a too brief time or even after years of marginal success.

The proliferation of community cultural centers and convention centers built to attract business and tourism to a town or region suggest that another attractive alternative exists. A year or two ago we drove past the Hickory (NC) Metro Convention Center. A quick look suggested it would be a fine venue for winter or summer bluegrass festival. A look at its web site shows a large, flexible auditorium for big performances, lots of smaller meeting rooms for jamming and workshops, places for vendors, and lots of space. According to the web site, there are three nearby campgrounds, four bed and breakfasts, and twenty or so motels at a variety of price ranges. The list of places to eat is sufficient to meet the tastes of almost any diner. Hickory is a small city in the heart of the downtrodden former furniture capital seeking revitalization. Such centers exist all over the country. Successful indoor festivals such as Wintergrass, Joe Val, Bluegrass First Class, and the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival attest to the success of the indoor format. Why not expand it to a broader season?

Bluegrass promoters need to rethink how they are organizing and paying for their events. Two recent trends seem to offer good alternative solutions,and I'm certain others will emerge as people start to re-think the future of festivals. Promoter combines and not-for-profit tax status both offer wonderful opportunities. Recently a group of NC festival promoters have banded together to create a group they call Bluegrass Circle Productions. According to Bluegrass Today the group involves “Cory Hemilright (Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival), Lorraine Jordan (Bluegrass Christmas In the Smokies), John Locust (Bluegrass in Cherokee), Don Mitchell (Blue Grass by the Rock), and Tim White (Song of the Mountains Bluegrass Festival). At this point they represent major festivals in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.” It is clear that such coordinated buying power is in a strong position to bargain, provide resources, and coordinate activities in a region. My greatest concern lies in wondering whether they will reduce diversity and prove to be destructive to independent festivals. This remains to be seen.

Festivals find themselves plagued with the costs of trying to make a profit and engaging in seeking to pay taxes while seeking to make enough money to get to the next year. One way to reduce costs and attract sponsors is to become chartered as a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. Such non profits must have a charity or cause to which they are dedicated and are governed by a number of rules and regulations. The promoter may be paid a salary from the receipts of the festival. The biggest attraction of non-profit designation is that it can attract local, regional, and national sponsors who can deduct their sponsorship costs. Attracting sponsors can make the difference between making money and failing as well as providing resources for booking bands and attracting customers. This is a win-win opportunity.

We live in a highly competitive entertainment environment with a changing environmental situation and a need to find new markets for bluegrass music. Considering changing to indoor format and becoming chartered as a not-for-profit corporation represent only two of many ways to become more relevant as we enter into a new century. The bluegrass festival, as imagined and realized by Carlton Haney is now nearly fifty years old. That's a long time for any form of entertainment to continue in much the same format. It's time to re-think the bluegrass festival in terms of content, location and structure while finding new audiences to deliver live bluegrass music to and seeking to maintain the current one.



THE DAILY GRIST..." The Alhambra Valley Band wishes to thank again all associated with the Kings River Festival.
The Grove was beautiful, the stage area was wonderful, the music sublime, the camping super, the jamming plentiful and the Hospitality was outstanding. A great time was had by all. The green room was one of the best! We enjoyed it all so much, and appreciate being a part of it.”--Lynn Quinones, posted on the Message Board in 2010, just one of the many, many notes from bands and fans alike who were grateful for this fine festival

The Kings River Bluegrass Festival
Today's column from Tim Edes, Chairman
California Bluegrass Association
Monday, March 10, 2014


Folks, I am very sad to post the note I received from the Kings River Bluegrass Festival Director, Stan Allen, over the weekend. Stan took the reins of the CBA festival two years ago and tried very hard to make the festival a successful event. In terms of a bluegrass festival, it was extremely successful! In terms of a financial endeavor, it fell short two years in a row. As Stan will explain, there were factors beyond his control.

On behalf of the California Bluegrass Association, I would like to thank Stan Allen, his wife, and his volunteer team for the countless hours dedicated to the festival. We are extremely grateful for his service. And who knows what the future may hold for the event. If you see Stan at a festival, please go up and thank him.” Tim Edes

“I would like to thank all of the many people, the great bands, and the many volunteers that have been a part of the Kings River Bluegrass Festival. The last 2 years have seen smaller attendance numbers, and after spending the last month working on the details of the festival for this year, giving consideration to the present economy and how the lack of water will affect us all, my recommendation to the CBA board was to remove the Kings River Bluegrass Festival from the 2014 calendar. After considering the facts the CBA board agreed. We agreed it would be better to remove it, than compromise the high quality the festival has always strived to maintain.

I would like to invite everybody to attend the best Bluegrass Festival on the west coast, The California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival this June 12 to 15, 2014 in Grass Valley California. It is a stellar event with great entertainment in a wonderful setting. You can go to www.cbaontheweg.org for more information, or feel free to call me. I would also like to encourage everyone to look in their Breakdown for other festivals that are happening in California. There are a lot of festivals with great Bluegrass music that are within a few hours drive.

Once again I would like to say Thank You to all for your many years of support for our local festival. Your support and friendship will be missed but not forgotten.

Keep Pickin’ and singin’

Stan and Charlotte Allen



THE DAILY GRIST…”(He)…began to suffer from the computer disease that anybody who works with computers now knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is you *play* with them. They are so wonderful. You have these switches - if it's an even number you do this, if it's an odd number you do that - and pretty soon you can do more and more elaborate things if you are clever enough, on one machine.”Richard Feynman

Syntax Error
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Sunday, March 9, 2014


Learning a foreign language can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience but it can also be very frustrating. There’s all this new vocabulary which you have to figure out how to pronounce, conjugate and process. But if you take the trouble to learn some of the local language before your trip through the backroads of an exotic foreign country, you’re likely to have a much better time than if you didn’t.

Learning to play music is much like learning to speak a foreign language. There are a number of different dialects but if you can make your instrument talk in one language, say folk for example, then you can probably get by in some other dialects as well. And if you head to a bluegrass festival instead of that exotic foreign country, it’s nice to know the language before you go jamming.

A few months ago there was a major national effort, spearheaded by some tech sector luminaries, with the goal of exposing secondary school students to computer science. It was called the “Hour of Code” and students across the country took an hour out of their school day to learn a little bit about how to create things using computers. My son’s school participated and I was very glad they did. In my mind learning computer languages is at least as important for today’s generation as learning a foreign language was for mine. Some day computer translation programs may be able to make any language familiar to the listener.

The Hour of Code got me thinking. Maybe I could learn a little bit about how to program a computer. I had had a little exposure to computer science back in my college days, but that was when you had to punch out a bunch of holes in a stack of cards and feed the cards through a sorter. Very primitive and not very much fun. I’d be starting from scratch.

I soon discovered that writing computer code can be a whole lot of fun. For one thing, you get instant feedback on every effort you make. It’s amazing how quickly computers can carry out complex tasks as long as you tell them exactly what to do. I signed up for a free tutorial called Codecademy Codecademy rewards your progress with badges and other encouragements and guides you along (well sort of) step by step. I would encourage anyone who has the slightest inclination to learn about computers to check out an online tutorial. Another good one is W3Schools. Maybe you’d rather watch a You Tube video that explains computer science in a lecture format? Check out Khan Academy .

Some new computer languages are incredibly simple to learn. For example, one program written for very young children allows you to write programs by simply stacking the right box icons together. Not very challenging or powerful, but you still get an idea of the logic a computer uses to do all those incredible things it does.

One word of caution, however. Just like any other language course, learning computer science can be frustrating. Imagine you’re in a jam and you hit one of those bad notes you occasionally hit. (I refer to mine euphemistically as “passing notes” and it’s an unfortunate feature of my unique musical style that I seem to hit a lot of them). Well imagine you’re in that jam and instead of just playing though a bad note, hoping nobody else noticed, and continuing to have a good time this happens: your instrument locks up, no sound comes out and a light flashes on the headstock that says “syntax error”.

That’s what it’s like trying to learn how to code in the computer language called Python. If you leave out one little punctuation mark or you indent where you shouldn’t or if you don’t indent where you should you have all sorts of problems. I’ve spent hours trying to find one stupid mistake and I now have new respect for all those coders out there fixing bugs in codes for those apps we all take for granted.

I see those words a lot these days. Syntax error. Fortunately for me, not all languages are as tricky for me as Python. My latest effort is HTML which I love because it allows you to manipulate content for web pages like the one you’re reading right now. Some of your intrepid welcome columnists have recently signed on to a little quality improvement project using HTML to increase efficiency by freeing our esteemed editor, Rick Cornish, from some of the tedium of putting our columns into a postable format. I sure hope I didn’t make any coding mistakes today. And I sure hope that if I did, my editor just fixes it as usual. He better not reply with an e mail saying simply “syntax error”.

OK column done. Now to go practice my mandolin so I don’t have too many syntax errors at Turlock.


THE DAILY GRIST…”I once half-jokingly remarked that harmonica players are about as welcome at bluegrass jams as mosquitoes that come out to feast.”—David Naiditch, world’s reigning King of Gypsy-Bluegrass Harmonica

Gypsy Bluegrass
Today’s column from John A. Karsemeyer
Saturday, March 8, 2014,


“Hello, my name is John Jorgenson.”

“Nice to meet you John, my name is John Karsemeyer. Thanks for coming to Sonoma.” After exchanging handshakes, I said, “Thanks for the lessons you gave me.”

“What lessons?” Mr. Jorgenson asked.

“Awhile back I got hold of one of your DVD lessons that Flat-picking Magazine offered,” I responded.

“Okay, that’s the one that Brad Davis and I did sometime ago. Now I see what you mean. Speaking of Brad Davis, I saw him just yesterday at the NAAM gathering down in Anaheim, California. He was with Dan Miller, who founded Flat Picking Magazine.”

“Right, Dan Miller. He was at one of the CBA Grass Valley Festivals where he had a Flat-Picking Guitar Magazine Booth.”

“Oh, Grass Valley. I’d like to play there sometime.”

“Well that’s a bluegrass festival. I don’t think gypsy jazz would fit in there.”

“Yes I know, but I have a bluegrass band.”

“A bluegrass band? What’s the name?”

“The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band.”

What kind of a band comes out before a concert and meets-and-greets the audience? Only one that I know of, and that is The John Jorgensen Quintet that keeps the spirit of Django Reinhart alive by playing “Gypsy Jazz” music. The quintet was recently in the town of Sonoma, California.

My curiosity ignited and led me to investigate the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. I found out that the members are John Jorgenson on mandolin and vocals, Herb Pederson on banjo and vocals, John Randall on guitar and vocals, and Mark Fain on acoustic bass.

John Jorgenson, a multi-instrumentalist, is known world-wide for his gypsy jazz guitar playing. A number of bluegrass guitarists have studied gypsy jazz guitar to spice-up their bluegrass licks, including the late Clarence White, who jump-started bluegrass guitar in his own way. In the Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, John takes over the duties on the mandolin.

I’m sure you bluegrass aficionados know who Herb Pederson is. He’s been to some of the FDF Grass Valley festivals. A long time ago he filled in for Earl Scruggs on the banjo when Earl was unable to play for awhile. He started playing bluegrass in the San Francisco Bay Area with Butch Waller, mandolin player and singer for the “High Country” bluegrass band. I could go on and on, but to sum it up, Herb has been all over the bluegrass map for a long time. He is the bluegrass banjo player for this band.

Jon Randall leads the way on bluegrass guitar. Maybe not as familiar a name in bluegrass circles as others, but he has his own pedigree. Some of you may know the song he wrote, “Whiskey Lullaby.”

“Nobody misses the bass player until he/she is gone.” Don’t know who said that, but there is a big hole in a bluegrass band when there is no bass player. Not to worry in the Jorgenson Bluegrass Band however, as Mark Fain is in the spot light on that one.

In addition to the dynamite instrument players in this band, the vocals are the main course in this bluegrass plate special. If you haven’t already done so, check ‘em out in a live performance if you get the chance. In this day and age you get to be ahead of that and get some samples on the internet.

A meet-and-greet before the performance by bluegrass bands would be a new twist. Something in addition to the quick-talk at the CD table after the band’s performance. Audience appreciation would take on a new, warm glow, from the smallest to the biggest venue.

Haven’t heard the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band live myself, but I’d jump at the chance. And now I’m thinking if I did it wouldn’t be surprising to get a bluegrass-gypsy-bluegrass “sandwich” performance out of the deal!



THE DAILY GRIST…” If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.”--
W. C. Fields

Ten Items or Fewer
Today’s column from Brooks Judd
Friday, March 7, 2014


Item 1: It is Friday night at the Westside Theater in Newman and I am ready to lumber up the well-worn stairs of the stage to do my bit as the MC.I have been asked by philosopher professor/songwriter/singer/guitarist/jazz and blues buff, Jason Winfree, to host tonight’s gala featuring Red Dog Ash and Stockton’s own Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players.

I usually get out to a bluegrass event once every 5 years or so and the last time was at Hobbs Grove Bluegrass Festival in Fresno about four years ago. At that Friday night event Red Dog Ash along with Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players were performing. The Elvis Costello look alike and CBA dynamo, Mr. Marcos Alvira, approached me and asked if I would be willing to MC. Apparently the five folks he had asked earlier politely declined. The last one declined because her parents had to nurse her and have her in bed by eight o’clock.

I explained to Mr. Alvira that even though I have the smooth southern charm of a Rhett Butler and the looks of a Portuguese Robert Redford, underneath all the glam and glitter I probably wasn’t a good choice to introduce the bands. I have a habit of getting tongue tied and I end up spewing Archie Bunker Spoonerisms. Mr. Alvira was kind, patted me gently on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it Brooks, you will do fine.” It wasn’t until much later I found out that he and Mr. Cornish had wagered a hefty bet with each other that I would mess up the introduction. I introduced Snap Jackson as Jack Snapson and his Wooden Knock Band.” Rick won the bet.

It was my first time here and I wasn’t going to let that happen. The theater is beautiful and the bands are primed and ready to play. Not only is the setting and sound perfect, but they also serve up various types of snacks, various soft drinks, and a full bar is featured hosted by a smiling bartender waiting and willing to pour your favorite bluegrass drink. The bar even stayed open after the performances so band members and friends could jam until the wee hours of Saturday morning. Snap Jackson and The Knock on Wood Players are a treat to watch. On lead guitar is the wonderful Eric Antrim, who considers the great Doc Watson and Jerry Garcia as inspiration. Shane Kalbach does a fine job handling the fiddle chores. He lists the one and only Megan Lynch, daughter of Maria Nadauld (Above the Bay Booking) sister of b. judd, as one of his inspirations. The multi-talented Brian Clark on bass has a right hand that slides up and down the neck of his well-worn bass like an over amped piston on a souped-up Maserati. Brian leans over his bass like a man possessed and comes up for air only to take a well-earned breath. What a joy to watch! He lists Thelonious Monk and Mr. J.S. Bach as influences. Mr. Snap Jackson is the consummate entertainer and has a stage presence that belies his youth. Snap lists the great John Hartford and the aforementioned Jerome Garcia as an influence. In honor of John Hartford Snap and the Boys did a wonderful rendition of “Aeroplane” by John Hartford. This song is dear to me because my dear band mate in the Fog Valley Drifters, Rachel Bennett, sang this song and did a wonderful version of it. Snap put his own personal touches on the song that brought a small tear to my eye. His rendition was charming and heartfelt.

I can’t say enough about Red Dog Ash. They are putting on this series of concerts at the Newman Theater bringing top name bluegrass acts to the area. When they perform they are as tight as a snare drum in Savannah in September. There is not a weak song in their set list (all self-written) and they have the toes of the audience tapping time to the beat. We are proud to have them here performing. We get to see them again in March, April, and May at the Newman Theater.

Item 2: The show was a success. I think it would have been exhilarating to have a crowd that included some folks who were under the AARP age guidelines. Bluegrass is such an energetic lively experience I do not for a minute understand the absence of younger folks attending the concerts. Please don’t get me wrong. I am one of the AARP folks and would love to share the room with someone who isn’t on Medicare. Here’s an idea for you under 65 folks. Come on out to one of the shows in March, April or May at the Newman Theater. Maybe you youngsters can learn something from us old geezers and maybe we could pick up a trick or two from you.

Item 3: My sister, Maria, and talented fiddle star daughter Megan just came back from a week long mini tour in Canada that Maria had spent countless hours piecing together like a 1000 piece jig saw puzzle. This was a solo venture for Megan and Maria tells me the trip was a success. Congratulations to Megan and Maria.

Item 4: I have joked in the past how my sister spends about 90% of her time either flying somewhere, flying back from somewhere, or visiting folks or doing things in places other than her hometown of Hayward. I have been privy to information that Maria flies Southwest Airlines so frequently that the local offices in Oakland send a private Southwest Airlines owned car and driver to not only to pick her up and take her to the airport but they also arrange for the same preferential treatment on the other end.

Item 5: Sheila and I saw Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers Friday night at the Gallo Theater in Modesto and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. Bill was limping around the stage with a bad case of foot tendonitis, but that didn’t stop him from belting out song after song with his deep rich voice while bringing laughter to his fans with his bag of sweet jokes and stories. The sold out house spent the entire two hour show listening, laughing and applauding. This is the type of show that makes me appreciate the Gallo Theater.

Item 6: Someday down the road a blue grass band will appear at the Gallo to a sold out house of adoring fans and a relationship will be forged. The Gallo will have one or two well attended bluegrass events yearly. Wouldn’t that be great?

Item 7: Off to the eye doctor to schedule my cataract surgeries.

Until April,- read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat a bar of chocolate, and take a long walk, you deserve it!




THE DAILY GRIST..."Band - a group of persons, animals, or things; especially, a group of musicians organized for ensemble playing.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Transition
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, March 6, 2014


Did you know that Wikipedia doesn’t have a listing for Bluegrass Bands? There are listings for Classical Bands, Jazz Bands and Pop/Rock Bands. There are references for Brass Bands, Marching Bands, Military Bands, Mariachi Bands and even Jug Bands but no reference for Bluegrass Bands. As it might be said in our neck of the woods, “that ain’t no part of nothing”.

Why this lack of respect in the nether world of the internet? I am offering two potential reasons for this “slight”. The first is that those who control the internet have a cultural bias against our music and its traditions and think of bluegrass in stereotypes that don’t warrant consideration.

The second and I think more plausible reason is that considering how Wikipedia is authored and the quality of the information contained there, bluegrassers are just too smart, too wise and too busy playing music to worry about the crap on Wikipedia, present company included.

I got into this discussion because the bluegrass band I play in is going through a transition. Our band has been together for close to 8 years with the same 5 members……..until last fall when one our members moved away and now we are 4.

Doing this for eight years, you would expect that we would be getting better with more time in grade and, with all due humility, that was the case. Instrumentally, we improved with the time we spent rehearsing with the band every Thursday and with our own woodshed time on our instruments. Vocally, our harmonies were tight and we were often able to get that buzz bands strive to achieve. Everyone new his or her role and we could add new material relatively quickly. Obviously, we were not the next reincarnation of Rhonda and Rage or anything like that but we were okay in our semi amateur kind of way.

During this time, we were huge on the South Bay Area Farmer’s Market circuit and tore up Mission Pizza a few times a year. Along the way, were coached by Laurie Lewis and played a set at the old Freight and Salvage, we played most years for the KKUP pledge drive and usually had a few private gigs each year.

As I said, now we are 4 and are still meeting weekly to rehearse but it ain’t easy. Our roles within the band are changing and are unfamiliar to some of us. This is particularly true in the harmonies. The voice we lost was one of the primary singers in our 3 part stacks. Our first thought was to just have a couple of us other guys fill in the parts. No problem right. We have been playing (and hearing) these songs for years. Stepping in and picking up a baritone part should be a no brainer. It hasn’t worked out that way. We are doing the work but it is slow and much more tedious than we anticipated. It’s takes us back to where we were 5 or 6 years ago when we were fresh and just starting out. Fresh is the operative word here. Now I’m not staying we’re stale but the use before date is certainly coming up quickly.

I have to say it is quite a bit easier instrumentally with moving around breaks and arrangements we are doing fine here and that makes it even a little more frustrating on the vocals.

Part of the problem is the standards we set for ourselves that were developed over the years playing together. Currently, the band’s approach on this is that we achieved a certain level in the past so we should be able to do it again. The problem as I see it is, is the band willing to put the work and more importantly the time in to get back to where we want to be? For what end are we doing this? Do we want to remain the leading act of the Santa Clara Farmer’s Market or a big draw on California Ave in Palo Alto.

Playing markets and pizza joints is lots of fun and over the years we did the work so our product was good for the venues we were playing. The question now is how much work do we need to put in to get back to that place. I guess you could argue that it is only farmer’s markets but we do take pride in what we do and how we represent bluegrass. Should we try to rework our old 3 sets of material or bring in new material and start from scratch?

As it stands now we are still meeting and rehearsing and I like that. I like the people I’m playing with and, differently from a jam, I like that we have a goal to perform for audiences. We have 5 farmer’s markets scheduled for this year and I expect will play them. It is a 50-50 shot that will do Mission Pizza. On from there it is anybody’s guess.

Didn’t mean to be a downer this month. Just thinking out loud. Thanks for the ear.


THE DAILY GRIST..."I apologise unreservedly. I offer a complete retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice. I deeply regret any distress my comments may have caused you or your family. And I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future..” Archie Leach "A Fish Called Wanda"


Rehearsin' and Woodsheddin'
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Before I can launch into this week’s essay, I need to offer a sincere apology to all you readers and to the CBA’s amazing webmaster and Board Chairman emeritus, Rick Cornish. I missed last Wednesday’s deadline, and I didn’t realize it until the next day. Wednesday just came and went without me even realizing it. I have no excuses - I was very busy, but I’ve been busy before. I screwed up and dishonored my commitment to Rick, the CBA and all of you to provide a weekly column. Being a regular contributor to this page is an honor and a privilege. I will do my very best to make sure that never happens again.

No excuses, but one of the things that had me kind of twisted up and bonkers last week was trying to quickly come up to speed in a new band. Well, two new bands, actually. I have been through this before - in 2003.

In 2003 I was invited to join the Alhambra Valley Band. It was an incredible challenge to step on board in a well-established band, and come up to speed quickly enough to maintain the quality for which the band was (and still is) known, and step in seamlessly in a number of rapidly approaching high profile gigs. Well, it didn’t kill me, but I didn’t miss any deadlines back then, either.

I learned a thing or two, along the way. One is, you can accomplish amazing things with smart rehearsals, and another is, intense individual practice between the rehearsals.

Smart rehearsing means staying focused and working towards a high quality result. A properly rehearsed band starts and stops the songs as a tight unit, but there’s much more. There has to be frank and open discussion (without rancor) as to who should sing what, the proper key, the best arrangement and what instrumental breaks serve the song the best. The rehearsal can still be fun, but stuff is always moving along and decisions are being agreed upon.

Never, EVER practice mistakes. Wrong notes or wrong chords never become better through repetition. On the contrary, the mistakes become a habit. When everyone’s not on the same page, stop and identify the issue, and correct it, to the best of your abilities. If it’s a vocal part you can’t nail, maybe someone else in the band should sing that part.

That’s a heck of a lot of moving parts, and that’s where the focus is important. Each facet I mentioned above can’t result in a lengthy discussion, or you’ll never get past one or two songs in a rehearsal. In a lot of cases, coming up to speed on the arrangements and vocal parts means woodshedding.

I have been out of practice on woodshedding, to be honest. I noodle around on guitar, bass or mandolin pretty much every day, but trying hard to properly learn unfamiliar songs requires a lot of effort, and for me, a certain amount of panic. I run through the songs over and over, staring at chord charts and lyric sheets and a devilish voice keeps whispering in my ear “You’ll never learn this stuff! You’re gonna make a fool out of yourself!” Fear of humiliation is a powerful motivator!

By the time my wife gets to hear me with this new band, she’s already sick of the songs, because I’ve been playing them nonstop for a couple of weeks.

I’ve always believed that hard work pays off, and gradually, what was an impenetrable mass of songs I’ve never known become friendly and familiar, and I’m looking forward to an exciting, challenging 2014. But I still have to honor my commitments!



March President’s Message
Today's column from Darby Brandli
Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I never understood exactly how popular the Super Bowl was until we produced a big indoor festival called Super Grass on the Super Bowl weekend a few years back . The CBA thought that the people of Bakersfield (a historically big music town) would rush to attend an indoor festival with the biggest names in bluegrass in their hometown. The people of Bakersfield stayed home and watched television instead. After licking our wounds and begging for donations to refill a depleted treasury we instead, offered a free event called the Great 48 (on a non-holiday, non-football weekend) and that has proven to be a huge success.

Big thanks to Larry Phegley for spearheading the Great 48 Hour Jam this year. Every year we say “this was the biggest and best ever” and this year is no exception. More people, more jams, more laughter and more events. The Brotelmarkles premiered a Teen Jam Suite this year and I found young people jamming every time I poked my head in. There was also a Kids on Bluegrass Performance Saturday Night on the big stage which was simply awesome. Larry has volunteered to chair next year.

The best quote of January “I am nobody’s targeted demographic” (Randy Pitts, 1/27/14) after watching the Grammys. There were lots and lots of bluegrassers (including CBAers) up for Grammys this year but they were all competing against each other since there were like two categories. Maybe in future years there will be more categories, and Randy will be someone’s targeted demographic. Everyone nominated had played on our stage though so we know talent when we see it. Congratulations to the Del McCoury Band who have played for us more times than any of the other bands.

This is important and needs immediate action. We need to replace Larry Kuhn as the Director of our IBMA event in Raleigh. Larry promises to mentor whomever takes over. Larry has done a great job for over a decade and has the event “dialed in” so whomever takes over will not have to reinvent the wheel. Larry has been threatening to retire the last couple of years but is serious this year and we must find someone to take over this annual event. The folks in Raleigh have proven to be great hosts and helpful. This is a perfect job for a couple as well!! Speak to us.

Music Camp(s) news. There are whispers that the CBA will present a Winter Music Camp again in 2015. Peter Langston and Janet Peterson were hired to run the Summer Camp and hopefully find a site for a Winter Camp and I think we may have found a spot!! Registration for the Summer Camp officially opened 2/7/14 and we expect to sell out again this year so register early.

The CBA Youth Academy registration is also off to a strong start. We were 25% full by the end of January so get your registration in soon. We are “reserving” spots this year and allowing families to postpone payment until later. Call or email me for current info. We would also like to remind our members that scholarship donations are being sought and all donations are tax deductible.
Volunteer Teams for the 39th Annual Father’s Day Festival are forming, there is a lot of work being done already to prepare for this event. Remember that in order to volunteer, your CBA membership must be current. Deb Livermore is your contact and contacting her early is probably a good thing. Some teams are pretty popular and fill up early.

The Sonoma County Bluegrass and Folk Festival is on the calendar for this month and Mark Hogan has hired a strong lineup again. See you there.




THE DAILY GRIST..."Band - a group of persons, animals, or things; especially, a group of musicians organized for ensemble playing.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary



Transition
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, March 6, 2014













Today's column from Mark Varner
Monday, March 3, 2014


Dear Friends,

This is a happy place, this CBA website. These are the art of enjoyment and the enjoyment of art, the events we produce here at the largest bluegrass organization in the world. While our songs frequently deal in loss, our mode is far from maudlin.

So this is not the time or place to express the feelings of sadness with which I have been battling for a while now. Things are tough all over, eh? Relationships dissolve, we lose friends, and we work to the fullest extent of our abilities and find it’s not enough. We know we are blessed (in whatever manner you choose to interpret that word), but it’s in the midst of storms that wreck and experiences that punish.

I am all about working through things and hoeing one’s row with a minimum of self-pity, and ensuring that one is taking good care of those who rely upon one. Sometimes this “work” seems endless and futile, like a Samuel Beckett play.

We make investments (hopefully) in our lives. We “invest” in people and call them “friends.” We care for them, trust them, love them. “We are how we treat each other when the day is done,” as a popular song says. (‘Nothing More’ – find it on Youtube)

My children are far and away my number one investment, and I’m so proud of both of them. Veronica, who many of you have watched on the KOB stage since she was five years old, is a solid young woman and driven to succeed in life. She’s a freshman this year and is already in several wonderful extra-curricular clubs at her high school. And Marty has applied to a number of universities and colleges">colleges. When I pick up the mail at our PO box there are letters of acceptance and scholarship offers from some of the best schools in the country. The events in my children’s lives are at the very center of who I am.

But my work is very long and very solitary and my desire for socialization is a challenge to meet. I get lonely. Boo hoo, right?

A normal human reading this Welcome Column on a Monday in March, 2014 would expect, or at least HOPE, this is leading somewhere. Fortunately for me it is, ha ha. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this community. So many of you have been there for me and my family in a variety of ways. A case in point is an old bluegrass friend, you know him, good guy, who helped Marty and I get to the Great 48. We’d never been, and I took the writing of last month’s Welcome Column off to celebrate my stupid birthday (spoiler alert – it was awful), so I did not get the opportunity to express my feelings about the Bakersfield event. I would like to do so briefly now.

You know it’s one thing to put on a concert. It’s one thing to put on a big festival. It’s one thing to put on a great music camp. It’s one thing to have a fantastic website and a nice newspaper (we don’t call it a “newsletter">newsletter”…. ever! Ha ha.). But the event in Bakersfield is simply a bluegrass dream come to life. There were a jillion people there, many faces from the South I assume, since I did not recognize them. And everyone was there just to hang out and visit and pick. There were a modicum of planned events, like the band contest and some workshops, but mostly it was just a hotel (pretty decent one, I thought) full of open doors – rooms of folks jamming or whatever. The hallways were full of faces I’ve known for years and also new faces with “that look.” Oh! I know that look. When you first realize that this is a community dedicated to an art as deep as the ocean and as broad as the sky and everyone is having a blast. And they are AMBITIOUS to be part of this vibrant and jovial scene. They’ll be the students at our CBA Music Camp and they’ll be the ones at the wonderful organized Slow Jam out by the gate at the Father’s Day Festival at 3AM, gritting their teeth when it comes time to take their first ever solo in the jam song. I love these people.

But mostly whom I love are the long time friends I have made since Mud Fest (the “old timers” know that was almost twenty years ago). Going to the G48 was the best therapy a person like myself could wish for and I am so grateful for your bluegrass hugs and the silly times we spent together.

I’m grateful for the way you have treated my kids. I’m grateful that the work I do for the CBA is appreciated. I want to edit the paper on the Suzanne Dennison plan: till I can’t do it any longer.

When I see new people at Grass Valley, and watch them as they gravitate to their own little tribes, I cannot help feeling both proud and blessed. People need something to hold onto, like “a poster from an old rodeo.” I’m so glad we have each other. Thanks!

Your pal,
Mark Varner
mrvarner@ix.netcom.com


THE DAILY GRIST..."Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
- Samuel Beckett

Two legged stool dude raises objections
Today’s column from the Mark Varner
Monday, March 3, 2014



Dear Friends,

This is a happy place, this CBA website. These are the art of enjoyment and the enjoyment of art, these events we produce here at the largest bluegrass organization in the world. While our songs frequently deal in loss, our mode is far from maudlin.

So this is not the time or place to express the feelings of sadness with which I have been battling for a while now. Things are tough all over, eh? Relationships dissolve, we lose friends, and we work to the fullest extent of our abilities and find it’s not enough. We know we are blessed (in whatever manner you choose to interpret that word), but it’s in the midst of storms that wreck and experiences that punish.

I am all about working through things and hoeing one’s row with a minimum of self-pity, and ensuring that one is taking good care of those who rely upon one. Sometimes this “work” seems endless and futile, like a Samuel Beckett play.

We make investments (hopefully) in our lives. We “invest” in people and call them “friends.” We care for them, trust them, love them. “We are how we treat each other when the day is done,” as a popular song says. (‘Nothing More’ – find it on Youtube). Here in this long running experiment in awesomeness we call the CBA our investments in each other are readily tracked, and quickly appreciated.

People have pillars, someone told me, like the legs of a stool upon which to construct your life. You’d better have at least three or you ain’t standing upright and you’ better, my wise friend warned me, have a number of extras, in case a leg breaks. Family. Work. Some…. “thing” you love. Maybe faith – maybe something eles.

My children are far and away my number one focus, and I’m so proud of both of them. Veronica, who many of you have watched on the KOB stage since she was five years old, is a solid young woman and driven to succeed in life. She’s a freshman this year and is already in several wonderful extra-curricular clubs at her high school. And Marty has applied to a number of universities and colleges">colleges. When I pick up the mail at our PO box there are letters of acceptance and scholarship offers from some of the best schools in the country. The events in my children’s lives are at the very center of who I am.

But my work is very long and very solitary and my desire for socialization is a challenge to meet, given my priorities of family and work. I get lonely for grown up company. Boo hoo, right? The two legged stool dude raises objections? Quel surprise!

A normal human reading this Welcome Column on a Monday in March, 2014 would expect, or at least HOPE, that this is leading somewhere. Fortunately for me it is, ha ha. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this community. So many of you have been there for me and my family in a variety of ways. A case in point is an old bluegrass friend, you know him, good guy, who helped Marty and I get to the Great 48. We’d never been, and I took the writing of last month’s Welcome Column off to celebrate my stupid birthday (spoiler alert – it was awful), so I did not get the opportunity to express my feelings about the Bakersfield event. I would like to do so briefly now.

You know,a it’s one thing to put on a concert. It’s one thing to put on a big festival. It’s one thing to put on a great music camp. It’s one thing to have a fantastic website and a nice newspaper (we don’t call it a “newsletter">newsletter”…. ever! Ha ha.). But the event in Bakersfield is simply a bluegrass dream come to life. There were a jillion people there, many faces from the South I assume, since I did not recognize them. And everyone was there just to hang out and visit and pick. There were a modicum of planned events, like the band contest and some workshops, but mostly it was just a hotel (pretty decent one, I thought) full of open doors – rooms of folks jamming or whatever. The hallways were full of faces I’ve known for years and also new faces with “that look.” Oh! I know that look. When you first realize that this is a community dedicated to an art as deep as the ocean and as broad as the sky and everyone is having a blast. And they are AMBITIOUS to be part of this vibrant and jovial scene. They’ll be the students at our CBA Music Camp and they’ll be the ones at the wonderful organized Slow Jam out by the gate at the Father’s Day Festival at 3AM, gritting their teeth when it comes time to take their first ever solo in the jam song. I love these people.

But mostly whom I love are the long time friends I have made since Mud Fest (the “old timers” know that was almost twenty years ago). Going to the G48 was the best therapy a person like myself could wish for and I am so grateful for your bluegrass hugs and the silly times we spent together.

I’m grateful for the way you have treated my kids. I’m grateful that the work I do for the CBA is appreciated. I want to edit the paper on the Suzanne Dennison plan: till I can’t do it any longer.

When I see new people at Grass Valley, and watch them as they gravitate to their own little tribes, I cannot help feeling both proud and blessed, and just a little bit jealous. Jealous that their road has more miles ahead than my own, and that tantalizing glimpse around the bend is a vision and a miracle to those just starting through the Great Divide.

People need something to hold onto, like “a poster from an old rodeo.” I’m so glad we have each other. Thanks!

Your pal,
Mark Varner
mrvarner@ix.netcom.com


The Brush Back and Family Values
Today’s column from the Marc(os) Alvira
Sunday, March , 2014


It seems to me that I wrote a column some time back about a certain month that I really hate. Funny thing is, I don’t recall exactly which one it is. It would be my guess that it was March. It has to be March. Why March? Because its immeasurable days are the final barrier between me and the seven months that define the rest of my year—i.e., baseball season. That baseball is the lifeblood of my family is axiomatic in our household. I can think of no baseball family in our acquaintance that hasn’t enjoyed a robust marriages, swarthy children, or has endured trial and iniquity by anything other than faith and life lessons learned from the diamond. You get brushed back by a pitch, you stand in at the plate and claim that outside corner. If a team mate strikes out with men on base, then you pick him up. Those are two rules for family living right there: A family has to be strong and tough. And when someone in the family stumbles, the rest of the family doesn’t let him hit ground. Families could save a lot on counseling by paying more attention to baseball.

It is easy to wax poetic about America’s pastime (a trite euphemism commonly associated with baseball prose and spring training), before the dog days of summer and a lengthy 162 game season try one’s love for the game. Several years ago, upon seeing the middle school kids outside my classroom window prepare for spring baseball, I wrote on the message board:

This afternoon, the sky was clear blue with errant clouds, gray and fluffy, meandering on the same cool breeze that was also blowing gently though my open window. The sun shone brilliantly, and the air was sweet from the freshly mowed field across just yards from my classroom. This was the first sun we've seen in the Valley for weeks and it streamed like melted butter though the window.

...and at that moment of complete Satori, I could feel it, smell it...could hear the pop of white horsehide against brown leather...was that spring training calling...beckoning...? Just a month away?

How I long to turn on the radio and hear John Miller. Box scores. Beer and hot dogs. Watching my boy pitch with the butterflies dancing in my stomach with his every wind-up.

"April is the cruelest month...." Eliot got it wrong. He knew not baseball. The cruelest, most malevolent month is February. She taunts and teases with days such as these. The blue will return to the Valley gray that reaches from ground to sky.

Soon enough, however, I'll have the the last laugh. April will chase away the gloom, and then the boys of summer will come out to play. The fresh memory of the mowed field outside my room need only sustain me a little while more.


[It does not escape my attention that I had earlier written “February” is my least favorite month. I am often cantankerous and capricious with my opinions]

While I enjoy reading the cornucopia of verse and prose that details the grace and aesthetics of this uniquely American game, the fact is, were I to play the word association game with baseball, my responses would be sweat, dirt, blood, sunburn, fetid (as in one’s teenager's baseball socks in the car after playing a double header on a 102 degree Valley day), sore muscles, elation and disappointment. These wretched images don’t necessarily connote anything negative about baseball from my or my little family’s perspective. In fact they represent a thousand shared experiences as a family—hundreds, if not thousands, of hours spent together at ballparks watching, playing, practicing, or arguing over the game.

Many baseball euphemisms have entered our daily lexicon. My family uses these, and other arcane bits of baseball advice to express heartfelt thoughts and council. I’ll tell you, my family is a hard nosed lot with little tolerance for whining. Things that you might hear from my wife, daughter or son say in any conversation:

  • Keep you butt and glove down, and your head up.
  • Stay inside the pitch, don’t reach.
  • Don’t give up the outside corner. (hitters)
  • Don’t be afraid to pitch inside.
  • Get a good jump on the ball (or pitch if stealing).
  • Slide hard.
  • Rub some first on it.
  • Take one for the team.
  • Ya it was a bad hop, but you have to be ready.
  • Don’t step in the bucket.
  • Keep your eye on the ball.
  • Don’t stand there looking at it.

Baseball is a team game in which individual failure is readily recognizable but in which nuanced success may go unnoticed. It is a game in which one’s hard work, preparation, and gusto (of lack of) are instantly observable to even the casual fan. My son is finally done with baseball (college career), and I can hardly wait to see what he accomplishes with the rest of his live with the work ethic and mental toughness he has learned from 19 years of playing ball.

The other day between classes, a student of mine on the school team and I were discussing hitting. I shared that I disagree with coaches telling young players—or perhaps any player —to hit the ball to right to move a runner up. I explained that a better approach (one used by Albert Puljos and many other sluggers) is to think about driving the ball straight up the middle and let the movement of the pitch take the ball gap to gap. Another player sitting in on the discussion piped, “Ya, it’s like life. Why be happy with a Texas leaguer to right? Don’t be afraid to drive in two.”

That brought a huge smile to my face. Now there was a kid that was being brought up right by a baseball family.


Don't be afraid to skip the songs that bore you.
Today’s column from the Marty Varner
Saturday, March 1, 2014


At the beginning of the month, I was glancing through new bluegrass releases, wondering what album would be the most joy to listen to and then review. When I saw that Trischka had released his new album, Great Big World, I thought it could be an option, but it wasn’t something that stuck out to me. I looked at the track list to see if the CD was all instrumentals, and what I saw came as a shock. While Trischka is known for putting together good bands, the special guests he had on this album were mind blowing. The names a saw across the page that specifically stuck out were: Michael Daves, the soulful singer and guitar player who is now known for partnering up with Chris Thile for brother duets; Mike Compton, the man; and John Goodman? Yes John Goodman! When I saw the impressive list of pickers and singers to compliment Trischka I thought, “how could this go wrong?” I was partially right. The album is full of great songs played by wonderful musicians, but like many instrumental albums or albums featuring an instrumentalist, the album has too many episodes and goes through numerous lulls. I would assume that the ability to play banjo would really help me grasp and enjoy this album more, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that the lyrical songs are just better in general.

The first track on the album starts hot. With a muted mando chop as percussion, Trischka just goes off for about half a minute before the lyrics for the song, “Say Goodbye” ensue. The lyrics are pretty generic, but the melody is insanely cool and Michael Daves sings it so well. The chorus begins with diamonds moving up a half step each time, which I think was pretty innovative and bluesy.

The second track, featuring Michael Daves and Mike Compton is one of my favorites on the album. It has a smooth calming 1-4-5 progression along with having that children’s song type vibe. I am not aware, whether the song,”Do Re Mi” is new or an old timey song, but they were either inspired by old-timey music and the fun care-free nature that has been known to along with it.

Then out of nowhere the next three tracks, including one with different movements are all instrumentals. If this were an album for a band instead of an instrumentalist it would be a rule of thumb not to do that. It only makes it worse that each of them are 4-5 minutes long. Out of this part of the album I actually did enjoy “Single String Melody...” especially “ole Shakey” which is a blues melody that Trischka plays all on one string. The melody is the very dark, yet has an infectious groove that makes the listener want to nod their heads. Another one of these songs features Steve Martin, which will be great for album sales as well as banjo fans who actually realize that Martin is not only incredibly talented as a comedic actor.

Even though the song as been done every which way, I still enjoyed Trischka’s version of “Angelina Baker”. On this version Trischka decided to have a male and female singer and have them respond back and forth, what makes this so cool is that Aoife O’ Donovan is the female singer. While her voice is beautiful on anything does, it sounds angelic on this song. Every note she sings seems to be pristine and in such a tone that it makes you happy just to hear her. Needless to say I have a little crush on her, but thats irrelevant.

Now I bet some of you read this because you saw that John Goodman was on a bluegrass album. On the song “Wild Bill Hickok” it is in fact John Goodman having the voice cameo near the end of the song. This story song, sung by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, is almost exponentially improved John Goodman and how his voice fits so well for the purpose that Trischka had in mind. I mean how often will you hear John Goodman say, “Wanted: A man for Marshall with the skin of a rhinoceros”?

This inconsistent album is worth a listen if you are not afraid to skip songs that bore you.



THE DAILY GRIST..."Moldy old buddy, if you're smart you'll do ALL of the driving.”—JD Rhynes



I’M ALIVE, I’M ALIVE, THANK YOU, GOD, I’M ALIVE
Today’s guest column from the Mold Man
Friday, February 28, 2014


Which more or less sums up the physical safety aspect of the longest nine hours of my life. Were they exaggerating about Cornish’s “challenged” driving? Did historians exaggerate about the almost comical lack of military prowess of the French in holding their so-called Maginot Line? Forty years later did they fudge on Mao’s colossally tragic miscalculation re: China’s Great Industrial Revolution? (20,000,000 starved to death at last count). Sorry, I apologize if all this sounds harsh, but when you spend that many blue-knuckled hours with one hand clutching the armrest and the other adjusting and re-adjusting your seat belt, hyperbole just naturally gushes.

So…deep breath…we made it to Havasu City…I am alive…I was not allowed to drive a single mile…I am in possession of a one-way Delta ticket back to California, departure, Sunday afternoon…and, yes, I am thanking God.

Now, what about the other aspects of the drive to Arizona with the former CBA chair, self-proclaimed web master, tank-topped fashion plate and generally acknowledged more than slightly-off-center, larger-than-life pilot of the 2014 Super-Charged Chevy Camaro 427? Are you kidding? The answer to that question will keep me in Mold News exposé for the next three months.

Wish you were here.
MM


THE DAILY GRIST...”I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I read that most people die of natural causes. Which got me thinking about this; all of those health nuts are really going to feel stupid when they're laying in the hospital dying of nothing.”--JDRhynes

A tasty practical joke. No kidding. It really tasted good!
Today's column from JD Rhynes
Thursday, February 27, 2014


I have been retired for 21 years now, and as a result, I have developed a routine that I adhere to daily when I am at home. It concerns a daily ritual of getting up, showering, shaving getting dressed etc., Having my first cup of coffee in the morning while checking the e-mail and the CBA website, and reading the Mold man's column for tasty tidbits of music news, and usually some arcane unnecessary information thrown in just for the heck of it. I honestly think that this is his way of pulling a mental practical joke on all of us. Once in a great while, they will be funny, but usually I find such information totally useless. But, that idea helped remind me of a practical joke, I pulled on a dear friend of mine when I was attending the IBMA convention in Louisville, Kentucky back around 2001.

One of my highlights of the day after I get to read my e-mail and check the CBA website out, is driving to the post office in uptown, downtown West Point, California, population about 600. [According to who is in or out of jail.] Yesterday when I went to the post office I had an envelope from my buddy Les Leverett in Nashville, Tennessee and inside was two pictures of me that he took in the green room backstage. [Les was the official photographer for the Opry for 32 years]. I had been thinking all morning of some arcane information that Mold man had foisted off on us that morning, and the possibility of that being a mental practical joke was in the back of my mind when I looked at those two photographs that Les sent me, and it triggered a memory the practical joke I pulled on Wayne Rice there in Louisville, Kentucky.

If I remember right it was a Friday morning and I slept in that day till around 10:30 AM. I got up and got dressed and got to the hotel dining room around 11:45 AM. There was only about eight or nine people in the whole dining room, and since I was by myself, the hostess set me at a small table for two. The waitress took my order and I was enjoying my first cuppa coffee, when my good friend Wayne Rice and another gentleman that I didn't know was seated right across the aisle from me. We said good morning to each other, and shortly the waitress came back to take their order, and when they had placed their order, Wayne pointed at me and said to the waitress; and give him the bill. We all laughed and had a good laugh over it, about 20 min. later I finished my meal and got up to leave.

As luck would have it the waitress was the cashier as well, so I told her; look, the guy that told you to give me the bill is a good friend of mine so I want to pay for their meal, but don't say a word about it until he gets ready to leave. She laughed and promised she wouldn't say a word. I laughed under my breath all the way back to my room.

Fast forward to about 6:30 that evening. I was waiting in the hotel lobby to meet a friend of mine so we could go have supper together, when who should walk by but Wayne Rice. He looked me in the face, his eyes got real big, and pointed at me and said; YOU!! You dirty guy!! JD, you made me feel like a Bum! We were both laughing our heads off, and I said I know Wayne that's why I did it! Wayne said, when that waitress told him that I had paid for their meal he felt about 2 inches tall and could've walked underneath the door. We both had a good laugh over it and I told Wayne not to feel one bit guilty because at the end of the year I deducted his dinner from my taxes, because it was a music related expense. So he felt a little bit better, but he did say he wished he had ordered a big rib steak instead that hamburger he had. I told him the next time he sees me in a restaurant to go ahead and order a big rib steak. I may pay for it, then again I might not. But there's one thing that we both agreed on. That was the tastiest practical joke that was ever pulled on him.

Good memories of good times at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. I would love to be able to do them all again.

Addendum to February 27 welcome message
News flash!!! I just learned late tonight that our esteemed Mold Man has accepted the non enviable task of Riding shotgun with Rick Cornish on his sojourn down to Bluegrass on the Beach, at Lake Havasu. Moldy old buddy, if you're smart you'll do ALL of the driving. Don't worry about falling asleep because Rick's incessant joke telling[that's what he calls it, I call it drivel] will keep you awake better than 10 red bull power drinks! Above all else, do NOT listen to his directions on how to get there.YOU read the map If you need one. I wish you both a safe and sober journey to and from Bluegrass on the Beach. I really look forward to the stories that are going to result from this adventure of yours. God speed.


THE DAILY GRIST..."I wouldn’t exactly say I was “hooked” on bluegrass. I just find that if I don’t hear it and play it and discuss it with friends at least once each day my hands start to shake.” Anonymous

How I got hooked on bluegrass
Guest column from Chris Ruud
Tuesday, February 25, 2014


(Editor’s Note—Even though Chris is a Southlander his sworn duty in life to get to every bluegrass jam that’s humanly possible makes his wry smile, grey mutton chops and ubiquitous six-string boom-chuck known from the Pacific to Nashville’s Ohio River. How does a person lose his soul so completely to a musical genre? Read on.)

My dad bought me my first guitar. He loved country music, so I learned Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens, anything country. That was when the Beverly hillbillies and Hee Haw were popular. I think bluegrass must have been there right from the start. I worked graveyard shift for thirty-years years. One time when out of town, I found two cassettes at a gas station. One was Bill Monroe, and the other Flatt and Scruggs. I learned every song on them, and listen to it over and over constantly. Thursday morning on KPFK they played bluegrass for an hour, it was a highlight of my workweek. It now was deep in my blood.

Long story short, I started going to church and play more music in 1990. At that time I walked into a music store and found Emmylou Harris Angel Band album and a gospel album full of different bluegrass bands.

While playing with a flute player from church I would use some of the bluegrass songs. The owner noticed and asked me to play on Tuesday doing bluegrass only. I thought it would only be me, but when I showed up there were eight people ready to jam. I had never done anything like that before. After a very slow version of Roll in my Sweet Baby's Arms, done little to bluesy. I looked up to see all the faces wondering what was that? I said I better learn more about this bluegrass thing. That jam went on for almost five years. I have been working hard at that for 24 years now, and see no end to that. I've started three bands Crystal River-5 years with Don Clark (owner of the Bluegrass Bus Museum), The Bluegrass Redliners-10 years,with Dolly Bradshaw, and the band I'm in now, Lonesome Otis- with Steve Stout, Chris and Celeste Cerna. I have met great players, great people, and they're all about bluegrass.



THE DAILY GRIST… “The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be. – Pete Seeger”

And Now Introducing…..San Diego North County Bluegrass & Folk Club
Today’s column From Yvonne Tatar
Monday, February 24, 2014


We are fortunate in San Diego area to have two bluegrass organizations to serve this large area. While very much alike, North County Bluegrass & Folk Club and San Diego Bluegrass Society have some differences. NCBGC is a 501c3 and all volunteer organization and an affiliate of Folk Routes, Inc. Because of this charter they offer folk and acoustic related music from time to time at their gatherings. But for the most part, bluegrass is the main genre represented at their First Tuesday gatherings. NCBGC is primarily located in the northern part of San Diego County and have members north of that in cities like Temecula, Fallbrook, and Hemet which are outside of the county. Their First Tuesday Music Nights is legendary and is a free gathering at the Round Table Pizza in Escondido. They offer jamming outside and a featured band that performs from 8 to 9 PM.

Their board of directors is uber-hardworking and offer a variety of bluegrass and acoustic activities for the San Diego area fans. They are also very supportive of children’s music education, whether it be bluegrass or other acoustic styles. Frequently, local youngsters are given an open mic at their First Tuesday jam where they can get some stage time and please the audience with their chops. They also sponsor two campouts each year and those are usually held in April and November. At the campout, NCBFC will host music workshops, a potluck dinner and an evening concert or band scramble during the campout. Many bluegrass fans look forward to these two campouts and have a great time relaxing, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Of course, there is always lots of jamming and talks around the campfire. The KOA in Chula Vista has been the prime spring campout location and it is superb with grassy campsites, firepits, cabins for those not camping, swimming pool, recreation room, and lots of activities right in the heart of town. The other location for the fall campouts recently has been in Borrego Springs. It’s a bit of a drive but so beautiful in the desert there. Temps are mild and lots of scenic vistas to take in along with the jamming and potlucks, etc.



And producing festivals is also something NCBFC has some history doing. From 1999-2002, they produced the Julian Bluegrass Festival up in Julian, Ca. That festival started many years ago and has been through some various changes over the last few years. In any event, NCBGC gained valuable experience during the three years they produced the Julian Festival. In 2003, they joined with SDBS to create and produce a new bluegrass festival in Vista, CA – Summergrass San Diego. This festival is in its 12th year and is held each August. It has grown steadily over the years and is now a premier event in the Southwest. Other events that NCBGC co-partners with SDBS are the Bluegrass Day at the Carlsbad Flower Fields each April where four or five local bands perform for the throngs of folks that come out to see the blooming flower fields there. It’s a great day of music, jamming, flowers and lots of activities at the Flower Fields location like tractor rides and the sweet pea maze. They also co-host the Bluegrass Day at the Del Mar Fair with SDBS each June. This is a complete day of music concerts by pros and locals along with youngsters, a band scramble and lots of jamming at the fairgrounds. It’s always a lot of fun and a great way to do outreach into our Southern California communities.

Their club newsletter">newsletter, The Broadcast, is published 12 times a year. Filled with lots of information and feature articles, their newsletter">newsletter is emailed electronically to their members. NCBGC was the first bluegrass association to try the electronic newsletter">newsletter here in Southern California and after some bumps in the road, it looks like it is working well for their members. The Broadcast keeps their members in the know of new bands, concerts and appearances, music supply dealers, music teachers and the like. To see a sample copy of The Broadcast just go to their website. They also have begun a “band membership” where a bluegrass band can sign up as a band member of NCBGC and be listed on their website, newsletter">newsletter, etc.

Interestingly, like SDBS, NCBGC also offers Household Memberships as opposed to individual memberships. They feel it is an easier way to have folks join as a household and is less work for the membership chairperson. Membership is $20 annually – really reasonable for a family! In addition to household memberships, NCBGC also offers band memberships are a reasonable fee as well. The current price can be found at the website at www.northcountybluegrass.org.

Northern San Diego County is well-represented by North County Bluegrass & Folk Club. A host of dedicated members always attend their monthly venue, campouts and their many other activities. It’s great to attend their jams, etc. and be a part of this vibrant and active club. Thanks for your hard work, NCBGC and I look forward to working with you in the future!



THE DAILY GRIST… “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”—Mark Twain

Pickin’ Weather
Today’s Column from Jeanie Ramos
Sunday, February 23, 2014


Lately, the topic of conversation always seems to turn to the weather. In California, it’s the drought, in the Midwest it’s the record cold, in the East it’s the snow and ice storms. Our Swampgrass friend, Larry Gillis posted a video on Facebook showing how they keep the ice-laden trees from falling on their house, a process which involves chewing tobacco and shooting the limbs off with rifles. Our daughter in New York posted pictures of her back deck with patio table buried in about twenty inches of snow. My niece in Missoula, Montana posted a poem with the last stanza that goes like this: “Yes, the weather here is wonderful, so I guess I’ll hang around.

I could never leave Montana, ‘cause I’m frozen to the ground!” Meanwhile, in California, my friends are voicing concerns and posting pictures of our reservoirs at record low levels.

It’s apparent that the weather can create a mood, which is apparent as you listen to the lyrics to many of the songs we hear and sing. For instance, the song, “Each Season Changes You,”

In the springtime you found me like the flowers
And your love grew warmer with the summer sun
Came the fall and I can see your love was changing
Broke my heart to see what wintertime had done

In many songs, rain and storms are synonymous with teardrops, loneliness, and lost loves. I’m sure you can come up with a list of songs with this as a theme. Consider the lyrics to Jim and Jesse’s song, “Stormy Horizons.”


I scarcely hear the wild winds cry or feel its sudden blast
A greater storm just swept my world apart
Today you’re with somebody new, my hopes are gone at last
There’s stormy horizons in my heart

On the other side of the spectrum, songs that portray happiness and well being use sunshine as a theme. You Are My Sunshine, Sunnyside of Life, Sunnyside of the Mountain are songs with this theme. One song that is kind of a puzzle to me is “Sitting on Top of the World.” I guess the man is glad his gal left him.
Was in the spring, one sunny day
My sweetheart left me
Lord, she went away
And now she’s gone and I don’t worry
Lord, I’m sitting on top of the world

The wind is another weather condition used in many songs. Oftentimes it is like a messenger warning of things to come, stirring up mixed emotions. Many years ago when I worked for the local school district, we all knew that if the winds were blowing we would be in for a rough day, the kids would be rowdy and restless. In Rhonda Vincent’s song, “Lonesome Wind Blues,” the wind stirs up the heartache of a love that’s gone. Seldom Scene recorded a beautiful song called, “Something in the Wind,” in which the man knew he had a restless lover who was about to leave even though she still loved him. One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard is “It’s Only the Wind,” a story of a dear old mother whose children had left and never came back to visit her. She would sit gazing out the window waiting for a knock on the door. She often mistook the sound of the wind for her children finally at the door.

It’s only the wind
Your children are not at the door
It’s only the wind
The wind, restless wind, nothing more

I went through my iPod looking for songs with references to weather either in the title or in the lyrics and was amazed at how many there are. A partial list:

Storms are on the ocean
Hobo Bill
Waitin’ for a train
I still miss someone
Just like rain
November Rain
It’s gonna rain
Days of Gray and Black
Blue skies and teardrops
Footprints in the snow
Lizzy and the Rainman…

I think you get the picture. As I said before, the weather is a popular topic this winter. It seems like none of us are happy with the weather and of course there’s not much we can do about it. In California, the threat of a water shortage is very real. I noticed that I was allowing two gallons of water to go down the drain each time I was waiting for water to get from the water heater to the faucet. I have begun saving that water in a large container and using it for cleaning, flushing a toilet, laundry, etc. A few days ago I started a thread on Facebook regarding the things we can do to conserve water. I was very pleased to hear that many of my friends are heeding the warnings and are doing their part. Here’s a list of things we came up with for saving water:

Don’t leave the water running while brushing teeth.

When showering, shut water off while soaping up (or shampooing) then turn back on to rinse.

Save gray water in a storage container to water plants in house or yard.

Wash dishes by hand rather than running a dishwasher.

Use towels more than once, and wear outer clothing more than once before laundering.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow…

Put a brick in the toilet water tank.

Pretend you are boondocking (dry camping) in an RV.

If a clean car is important to you, use a carwash, they recycle the water.


I’m sure many of you can come up with more suggestions. If we all do our part, we can keep a lot of water from going to waste.

That’s it for this month. Get out and enjoy the weather and we’ll see you down the music road somewhere. God bless.


THE DAILY GRIST...“How can anyone possibly move a genre forward without knowing where it has been?”—Ray Price

The True Bluegrasser KNOWS AND EMBRACES Their History, Their Legends and Their Stories!
Today's guest column from Shelly Mullins, entertainment marketing, management and consultant, Nashville
Saturday, February 22, 2014


(Editor’s Note: We want to thank Brian O’Neal at prescriptionbluegrass.com for allowing the web team to share Ms. Mullins’ essay, which originally appeared at pb.com last month.)

I was in a club in Nashville not long ago and saw a new-to-town female fiddle player--adorable, young, talented, pretty. She got up and played “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” My husband and I were really impressed and felt she had a ton of potential.

Being big lovers of traditional country music, we requested that she play a Bob Wills tune or two. Our jaws literally hit the floor when she told us she didn’t know who he was. I was like, “Wow! Shame on you.” That would be like a piano player not knowing Floyd Kramer or Pig Robbins, or a guitar player not knowing Albert Lee or Chet Atkins.

How does a musician hone their own chops and develop their own style if they don’t know what has already come before them? Can you really call yourself a piano player if you have never played in Fats Waller’s stride style or Scott Joplin’s ragtime style? Or a banjo player without studying the rolls of Earl Scruggs or the claw of Jerry Reed? That’s crazy!!!

So then, over the holidays, I was down at a club during New Year’s Eve. As you may be aware, Hank Williams passed away 60 years ago this past New Year’s and we had some older country acts there to pay tribute. Granted, these weren’t big A-listers, but they were solid acts that should be on any country lover’s radar--HIT MAKERS from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yet, I couldn’t believe how many 20-somethings didn’t have a clue who they were (even as they played their hits). Not to mention that some of these 20-something country fans were just plain disrespectful during their time on stage.

To me, that’s just plain UNFORGIVABLE. And it’s not like they had lost their voices or their talent and were wash-ups. These folks helped shape the sounds of the genre and have legions of fans throughout the world. Needless to say, I was SEETHING and embarrassed by the youth of today! What happened to “Honor Thy Roots,” “Never get higher than your raisin’s” and all that? Is that just my small-town upbringing talking or has something gone awry?

Before I even came to Nashville in the mid-90’s, I studied the greats. I could tell you a history of Country Music that started with the Irish/Scottish Immigrants of Appalachia and progressed to the Carter Family. I could tell you about the L & C elevator operator, DeFord Bailey, who became the first big star of the Grand Ole Opry. I could talk about the original Brunswick Recordings, the first bunch of records to ever come from Nashville. I knew about the popularity of the Chicago Barn Dance and explain to you why 650-AM WSM only has 3 call letters. I could tell you about Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and the Cowboy movement; talk about the rebel sons of the Outlaw Movement or the polished suit-wearing boys of the Countrypolitan Movement; relay the stories of the Bakersfield boys, the Muscle Shoals folks, the Memphis and Sun Records crowd, etc.

I would NEVER, NEVER presume to want a job in this industry or even claim true fan-dom without knowing the basic “founding fathers/mothers” of the genre. And while I may not care personally for their style and want to race down to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and snap up all their albums, I would still have a deep-found respect for their body of work and understand it’s importance in this ever-changing embodiment of what we call “the genre.”

I heard a story years ago (I don’t know how true it is, but I’ve heard it from several people about the same former label president)…Supposedly, there was a new female singer who was considering a remake of a signature Patsy Cline song. Rumor had it that when this label president heard the idea, he said to one of his assistants, “heck, let’s just get her in here and we can have them do it duet-style.” Really??? If this was true, how was this even possible that this guy could rise to the top of a large music label?

On behalf of “old farts and a**holes,” as our legends were inappropriately called, I share the same poignant question that the late Ray Price asked. “How can anyone possibly move a genre forward without knowing where it has been?” It isn’t just “Granddad’s music” as a recent A-Level act recently dissed…it’s the FOUNDATION of our music!

Discouraged and disgusted, I trudged to my car and began to drive home. Begrudgingly, I scanned into a special on Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction with the Steeldrivers. There they were on the airwaves with Kyle Cantrell, intelligently discussing their influences. You could tell they were educated and had studied the voicings of those who paved their way—names like Rice, Stanley, Flatt, Douglas, Bush, Skaggs, LRB, Emmylou were talked about…styles were discussed too: finger rolls, bar chords, open tunings, etc.….it was SO DELIGHTFUL AND REFRESHING! Given the anger I had felt earlier, I was nearly overcome with joy.

It dawned on me at that moment….of all the genres, from the biggest artist to all the millions of fans from all over the world, the true bluegrasser KNOWS AND EMBRACES their history, their legends and their stories. They study the masters and understand the various stylings. But mostly, and above all else, they honor their roots. Admittedly, there are staunch traditionalists in our genre who want all acts to sound like the early records of Monroe, and then, there are those (like me) who want to hear the music that lies just outside the limits of that box (no, I’m not one of those that wants to hear a marimba in Bluegrass EVER… I still believe in keeping it real).

But the tradition of bluegrass goes much further than staying true to instrumentation….it’s REALLY about the admiration and love for those that laid the groundwork and the respect for the heritage, the artists and the history that built the body of work we call the Bluegrass genre. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! These days…Bluegrass is really the stand out for doing this better than anyone else and I’m just beyond blessed to be a part of it.

I look forward to many more years together with my friends of Bluegrass, whether it is on my turntable, radio or in this business. A toast to you, Bluegrass Music, for renewing my faith in music (and its fans), once again. Here’s to everything you’ve given to me throughout the years (from my earliest musical memories) and to everything that lies ahead and remembering those who paved the way on this magical musical journey! God Bless!




THE DAILY GRIST..."I’m gonna miss Nancy Zuniga? Just heard she’s retiring as a Welcome columnist for the CBA. First ever woman they picked to write ‘em, and boy could she write ‘em. I think Nancy was one of the best ever.” Message Board post, 2011

Letting Go
Today's Vintage Welcome from Nancy Zuniga (10/10/10)
Thursday, February 20, 2014


“Run to the rock and hide your face;
The rock cried out “No hiding place!”

One of the few advantages I've found to living in the country is that I can step outside my door in the morning, before I've had a chance to comb my hair and put on my face, with no worries that any of my neighbors will see me before I make myself presentable to the world. Even when I lived in more a more populous area, this wasn't really much of a problem. I could venture outdoors in my bathrobe and slippers to retrieve my newspaper or haul the trashcan to the curb without anyone remarking on my less-than-remarkable activities. I've noticed, however, that personal space flies out the window at bluegrass festivals.

It's morning, and I'm heading to the campground showers, looking like something the cat dragged in after a late night of picking. I'm hoping against hope that I reach my destination before anyone embarrasses me by acknowledging my existence, but this seldom happens. Inevitably, someone will call out a remark along the lines of, “Looks like you're on a mission!”, “She's headed to the showers,” or “Did you do a lot of picking last night?” Please, earth...just swallow me now. Looking somewhat more human on my return trip, I'm the recipient of more comments along the lines of “Looks like you got your shower,” “Do you feel better now?” and “You clean up pretty good!”

Stating the obvious seems to be a favorite pastime at bluegrass festivals. I have yet to walk toward the audience area carrying a folding chair without at least one person feeling compelled to share their observation, “You're going to go listen to some music.” Umm…What was the tipoff?

Food is another category. I don't remember anyone ever commenting on my purchases from fast-food restaurants or an ice cream shop out in the real world, but you won't escape without comments if you buy food from a festival vendor, particularly if your snack is of the decadent variety like a Lazy Dog ice cream bar. Onlookers' observations will cover the gamut of sentence types that we learned about in elementary school: statement (“You just had to get one.”), question: (“Don't you know that's not good for you?”) and exclamation: (“Hey! Let me have a bite!”)

I've wondered what it is that causes folks at festivals to feel called upon to make comments about the most mundane activities of other festival-goers, and to proffer remarks about activities that would never be worthy of notice in their home communities. I've decided that it must be the sense of community that turns every festival campground into Mayberry-on-wheels. Bluegrass festivals offer a sense of a small-town community and camaraderie that most of us don't enjoy in our home neighborhoods, regardless of where we live. There are no strangers, and everyone's business somehow becomes everyone else's business for those few days. I'm not really complaining (even if it sounds as though I am). The same dynamic that causes our bluegrass neighbors to remark on one another's food choices and trips to the restroom also causes bluegrass friends to care deeply about each another. This prevailing attitude became obvious when my husband Henry recently made his cancer diagnosis public on the CBA Message Board. The outpouring of concern made it evident that we do share a true sense of community...a virtual Mayberry. In fact, there are no strangers in our bluegrass world. There's no hiding place either...but when you look at the big picture, that's not really such a bad thing.


THE DAILY GRIST..."The answer to the world’s suffering is extraordinarily simple—halve the number of people on planet earth and double the number of dogs.”—Sir Roger Benson, little known British 19th Century political scientist, philosopher and ardent dog lover, from his 1886 essay, Why Man’s Best Friend Could Also Be His Salvation

1,000 Dogs
Today’s Welcome from Rick Cornish
Thursday, February 20, 2014


Good Thursday from Whiskey Creek, where each morning we get up to the bizarre sight of six acres cluttered with plants and trees and bushes that are convinced we’re in the middle of spring. And there’s no reasoning with them.

I’ll tell you something not many people know about my wife, Lynn. Despite her artistic sensibility, her obvious soulfulness, her life-long spiritual bent, her disdain for materialism, she covets money. Now, before you judge, her interest in dough hasn’t anything to do with buying things. Aside from an Imelda Marcos-sized collection of footwear, Lynn is the least acquisitive person I’ve ever known. And she hates to shop. No, Lynn’s “money thing” stems entirely from a preoccupation about financial security once I’ve gone to meet my maker, (or to meet the other guy), and believe me, there’s no doubt in her mind who’ll be succeeding who. So, since my retirement two and a half years ago Lynn has been gently nudging me in the direction of finding a pastime that would be both personally fulfilling and financially lucrative.

The obvious choice is writing. It’s what I did before I started a career in education and it’s something I very much enjoy. Now, making money at it, that’s a whole nother kettle of fish. So I’ve been thinking, cogitating, and here’s what I’ve come up with--the key to commercial success as an author lies in identifying what’s hot with the reading public and then jumping on the train before it leaves the station.

I feel compelled by my innate sense of honesty to admit that I learned this lesson through careful observation rather than through any personal experience as a successful writer. Which is exactly the reason I am determined that this time, dammit, I WILL jump on that train, feet first, and I will ride it all the way to the top to the New York Times Best Seller List. I have systematically monitored what’s selling and what’s not, spotted the latest trend in hot non-fiction, closely studied the elements that give it its appeal with readers and am convinced it's the vehicle to the fame and fortune I so richly deserve. I speak, of course, about the ONE THOUSAND THINGS (fill in the blank) BEFORE YOU DIE genre which has hijacked an entire nation of light readers.

I have no idea which the first was; the earliest I remember is 1,000 Places You Need to Visit Before You Die. The author, Patricia Schultz, a travel journalist and executive-producer of a Travel Channel television show, watched her book soar all the way to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. And, as happens so often in the world of mass-appeal literature, a rushing river of knock-offs and eventually variations on Schultz’s general theme escaped the floodgates. 1,000 Vacations You Should Take Before You Die, 1,000 Lakes You Should Swim In Before You Die, 1,000 Ancient Ruins You Should Explore Before You Die, 1,000 Restaurants You Should Dine at Before You Die, 1,000 Blends of Coffee You Should Savor Before You Die, 1,000 Birds You Should Watch Before You Die, 1,000 Artists Whose Works You Should See Before You Die and, the one that got me off my butt and roaring down the train track…1,000 Books You Should Read, (which include 371 “1,000 fill-in-the-blank Before You Die tomes.
Of course with 371 “1,000…Before You Die” works of literature already in print, coming up with just the right area of focus would be the greatest challenge. I began by making a list and then soliciting ideas to make it longer. My wife, Lynn, for example, suggested a thousand Zen Masters with whom to spend a day, meatless recipes to try, hair products to buy and ways to surprise and delight your wife. My friend Bill S. took a different approach, which, I have to admit, pretty much doubled the available options. How about, he asked, 1,000 Places You Should Stay the Hell Away from Before You Die?

In the end I selected the only topic that I could truly sink my teeth in, which was 1,000 Dogs You Should Own Before You Die. Lynn was quick to point out that there weren’t even 1,000 recognized dog breeds, much less enough to pick which to and to not own. In fact, my wife sent me an email on the subject.

“To: H, (which stands for “husband” in every note Lynn writes to me
From: W, (right)
Subject: Limitations of Currently Considered “1,000” Book Option
Date: February 7, 2014

Proof positive that you’re barking up the wrong tree.” (Annoying puns are a hallmark of my wife’s prose, obviously something I discovered about her only after the fateful knot was tied in what seems like an eternity ago.)

And then the list…

Afghanistan
Afghan Hound (longhaired sighthound)
Anatolia
Anatolian Shepherd Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Argentina
Dogo Argentino (mastiff)
Australia
Australian Cattle Dog (cattle dog)
Australian Kelpie (sheepdog)
Australian Silky Terrier (toy terrier)
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog (cattle dog)
Australian Terrier (small sized terrier)
Jack Russell Terrier (small sized terrier)
Austria
Alpine Dachsbracke (leash hound)
Austrian Black and Tan Hound (medium scenthound)
Austrian Pinscher (pinscher)
Styrian coarse-haired Hound (medium scenthound)
Tyrolean Hound (medium scenthound)
Belgium
Belgian Sheepdog [4 varieties]
Groenendael (sheepdog)
Laekenois (sheepdog)
Malinois (sheepdog)
Tervueren(sheepdog)
Bloodhound (large scenthound)
Griffon Belge (companion/toy dog)
Griffon Bruxellois (companion/toy dog)
Petit Brabançon (companion/toy dog)
Schipperke (sheepdog)
Bosnia
Bosnian Coarse-haired Hound (medium scenthound)
Brazil
Fila Brasileiro (mastiff)
Canada
Newfoundland (mountain type mastiff)
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (retriever)
Central Africa
Basenji (primitive type)
Central Mediterranean
Maltese (companion/toy dog)
China
Chinese Crested dog (2 varieties)
Hairless (companion/toy dog)
Powderpuff (companion/toy dog)
Chow Chow (Asian spitz)
Pekingese (companion/toy dog)
Shar Pei (mastiff)
Croatia
Croatian Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Dalmatian (scenthound)
Istrian Coarse-haired Hound (medium scenthound)
Istrian Short-haired Hound (medium scenthound)
Posavaz Hound (medium scenthound)
Czechoslovakia
Ceský Fousek (griffon-type pointer)
Cesky Terrier(small sized terrier)
Czechoslovakian Wolfdog (sheepdog)
Denmark
Broholmer (mastiff)
Old Danish Pointer (continental pointing dog)
Finland
Finnish Hound (medium scenthound)
Finnish Lapphund (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
Finnish Spitz (Nordic hunting dog)
Karelian Bear Dog (Nordic hunting dog)
Lapponian Herder (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
France
Anglo-Français de Petite Vénerie (medium scenthound)
Ariégeois (medium scenthound)
Barbet (water dog)
Basset Artésien Normand (small scenthound)
Basset Bleu de Gascogne (small scenthound)
Basset Fauve de Bretagne (small scenthound)
Beagle-Harrier (medium scenthound)
Beauceron (sheepdog)
Berger Picard (sheepdog)
Bichon Frise (companion/toy dog)
Billy (large scenthound)
Bouvier des Ardennes (cattle dog)
Bouvier des Flandres (cattle dog)
Braque d'Auvergne (continental pointing dog)
Braque de l'Ariège (continental pointing dog)
Braque du Bourbonnais (continental pointing dog)
Braque Français, type Gascogne (continental pointing dog)
Braque Français, type Pyrénées (continental pointing dog)
Braque Saint-Germain (continental pointing dog)
Briard (sheepdog)
Briquet Griffon Vendéen (medium scenthound)
Brittany Spaniel (spaniel-type pointer)
Chien d'Artois (medium scenthound)
Epagneul Bleu de Picardie (spaniel-type pointer)
Epagneul de Picardie (spaniel-type pointer)
Epagneul Français (spaniel-type pointer)
Epagneul Pont-Audemer (spaniel-type pointer)
Français Blanc et Noir (large scenthound)
Français Blanc et Orange (large scenthound)
Français Tricolore (large scenthound)
French Bulldog (companion/toy dog)
Gascon Saintongeois (medium scenthound)
Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Noir (large scenthound)
Grand Anglo-Français Blanc et Orange (large scenthound)
Grand Anglo-Français Tricolore (large scenthound)
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (small scenthound)
Grand Bleu de Gascogne (large scenthound)
Grand Gascon Saintongeois (large scenthound)
Grand Griffon Vendéen (large scenthound)
Griffon Bleu de Gascogne (medium scenthound)
Griffon Fauve de Bretagne (medium scenthound)
Griffon Nivernais (medium scenthound)
Lowchen (companion/toy dog)
Papillion (companion/toy dog)
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen (small scenthound)
Petit Bleu de Gascogne (medium scenthound)
Phalene (companion/toy dog)
Poitevin (large scenthound)
Poodle (4 varieties)
Standard (companion/toy dog)
Medium Poodle (companion/toy dog)
Miniature Poodle (companion/toy dog)
Toy Poodle (companion/toy dog)
Porcelaine (medium scenthound)
Pyrenean Mountain Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Pyrenean Shepherd (sheepdog)
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (griffon-type pointer)
Germany
Affenpinscher (pinscher)
Bavarian Mountain Hound (leash hound)
Boxer (mastiff)
Deutscher Jagdterrier (German Hunting Terrier
Doberman Pinscher (pinscher)
Eurasia (Asian spitz))
German Hound (small scenthound)
German Longhaired Pointer (spaniel-type pointer)
German Pinscher (pinscher)
German Shepherd Dog (sheepdog)
German Shorthaired Pointer (continental pointing dog)
German Spaniel (flushing dog)
German Spitz (3 varieties)
Grossspitz (European spitz)
Mittelspitz (European spitz)
Kleinspitz (European spitz)
German Wirehaired Pointer (continental pointing dog)
Giant Schnauzer (schnauzer)
Great Dane (mastiff)
Hanover Hound (leash hound)
Hovawart (mountain type mastiff)
Keeshond (European spitz)
Kromfohrländer (companion/toy dog)
Landseer (mountain type mastiff)
Large Munsterlander (spaniel-type pointer)
Leonberger (mountain type mastiff)
Miniature Dachshund (3 varieties)
Smooth-haired (dachshund)
Wire-haired (dachshund)
Long-haired (dachshund)
Miniature Pinscher (pinscher)
Miniature Schnauzer (schnauzer)
Pomeranian (European spitz)
Pudelpointer (continental pointing dog)
Rabbit Dachshund (3 varieties)
Smooth-haired (dachshund)
Wire-haired (dachshund)
Long-haired(dachshund)
Rottweiler (mastiff)
Small Munsterlander (spaniel-type pointer)
Standard Dachshund (3 varieties)
Smooth-haired (dachshund)
Wire-haired (dachshund)
Long-haired (dachshund)
Standard Schnauzer (schnauzer)
Weimaraner (continental pointing dog)
Westphalian Dachsbracke (small scenthound)
Great Britain
Airedale Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Basset Hound (small scenthound)
Beagle (small scenthound)
Bearded Collie (sheepdog)
Bedlington Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Border Collie (sheepdog)
Border Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Bull Terrier (Miniature) (bull-type terrier)
Bull Terrier (Standard) (bull-type terrier)
Bulldog (mastiff)
Bullmastiff (mastiff)
Cairn Terrier (small sized terrier)
Cardigan Welsh Corgi (sheepdog)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (companion/toy dog)
Clumber Spaniel (flushing dog)
Curly Coated Retriever (retriever)
Dandie Dinmont Terrier (small sized terrier)
Deerhound (rough-haired sighthound)
English Cocker Spaniel (flushing dog)
English Foxhound (large scenthound)
English Mastiff (mastiff)
English Pointer (pointer)
English Setter (setter)
English Springer Spaniel (flushing dog)
English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan) (toy terrier)
Field Spaniel (flushing dog)
Flat Coated Retriever (retriever)
Fox Terrier (Smooth) (large/medium sized terrier)
Fox Terrier (Wire) (large/medium sized terrier)
Golden Retriever (retriever)
Gordon Setter (setter)
Greyhound (shorthaired sighthound)
Harrier (medium scenthound)
King Charles Spaniel (companion/toy dog)
Labrador Retriever (retriever)
Lakeland Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Manchester Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Norfolk Terrier (small sized terrier)
Norwich Terrier (small sized terrier)
Old English Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Otterhound (large scenthound)
Parson Russell Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Pembroke Welsh Corgi (sheepdog)
Pug (companion/toy dog)
Rough Collie (sheepdog)
Scottish Terrier (small sized terrier)
Sealyham Terrier (small sized terrier)
Shetland Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Skye Terrier (small sized terrier)
Smooth Collie (sheepdog)
Staffordshire Bull Terrier (bull-type terrier)
Sussex Spaniel (flushing dog)
Welsh Springer Spaniel (flushing dog)
Welsh Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
West Highland White Terrier (small sized terrier)
Whippet (shorthaired sighthound)
Yorkshire Terrier (toy terrier)
Greece
Hellenic Hound (medium scenthound)
Greenland
Greenland Dog (Nordic sledge dog)
Hungary
Hungarian Greyhound (shorthaired sighthound)
Hungarian Vizsla (Shorthaired) (continental pointing dog)
Hungarian Vizsla (Wirehaired) (continental pointing dog)
Komondor (sheepdog)
Kuvasz (sheepdog)
Mudi (sheepdog)
Puli (sheepdog)
Pumi (sheepdog)
Transylvanian Hound (medium scenthound)
Iceland
Icelandic Sheepdog (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
Ireland
Irish Glen of Imaal Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Irish Red and White Setter(setter)
Irish Setter (setter)
Irish Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Irish Water Spaniel (water dog)
Irish Wolfhound (rough-haired sighthound)
Kerry Blue Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier (large/medium sized terrier)
Israel
Canaan Dog (primitive type)
Italy
Bergamasco (sheepdog)
Bolognese (companion/toy dog)
Bracco Italiano (continental pointing dog)
Cane Corso Italiano (mastiff)
Cirneco dell'Etna (primitive type-hunting dog)
Italian Greyhound (shorthaired sighthound)
Lagotto Romagnolo (water dog)
Maremma Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Neapolitan Mastiff (mastiff)
Segugio Italiano (medium scenthound)
Spinone Italiano (griffon-type pointer)
Volpino Italiano (European spitz)
Japan
Akita (Asian spitz)
American Akita (Asian spitz)
Hokkaido (Asian spitz)
Japanese Chin (companion/toy dog)
Japanese Spitz (Asian spitz)
Japanese Terrier [Nihon Teria] (small sized terrier)
Kai (Asian spitz)
Kishu (Asian spitz)
Shiba (Asian spitz)
Shikoku (Asian spitz)
Tosa Inu (mastiff)
Korea
Korean Jindo (Asian spitz)
Madagascar
Coton de Tuléar (companion/toy dog)
Mali
Azawakh (shorthaired sighthound)
Malta
Pharaoh Hound (primitive type)
Mexico
Chihuahua (2 varieties)
Shorthaired (companion/toy dog)
Longhaired (companion/toy dog)
Mexican Hairless Dog (primitive type)
Middle East
Saluki (longhaired sighthound)
Montenegro
Montenegrin Mountain Hound (medium scenthound)
Morocco
Aidi (mountain type mastiff)
Sloughi (Arabian Greyhound) (shorthaired sighthound)
Netherlands
Dutch Partridge Dog (spaniel-type pointer)
Dutch Schapendoes (sheepdog)
Dutch Shepherd Dog (sheepdog)
Dutch Smoushond (smoushond)
Kooikerhondje (flushing dog)
Saarloos Wolfdog (sheepdog)
Stabyhoun (spaniel-type pointer)
Wetterhoun (water dog)
Norway
Black Norwegian Elkhound (Nordic hunting dog)
Dunker (medium scenthound)
Haldenstøvare (medium scenthound)
Hygenhund (medium scenthound)
Norwegian Buhund (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
Norwegian Elkhound (Nordic hunting dog)
Norwegian Lundehund (Nordic hunting dog)
Peru
Peruvian Hairless Dog (primitive type)
Poland
Chart Polski (Polish Greyhound)(shorthaired sighthound)
Polish Hound (medium scenthound)
Polish Lowland Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Tatra Shepherd Dog (sheepdog)
Portugal
Cão Fila de São Miguel (mastiff)
Castro Laboreiro Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Estrela Mountain Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Podengo Português (primitive type-hunting dog)
Portuguese Pointer (continental pointing dog)
Portuguese Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Portuguese Water Dog (water dog)
Rafeiro of Alentejo (mountain type mastiff)
Russia
Borzoi (longhaired sighthound)
Caucasian Shepherd Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Central Asia Shepherd Dog (mountain type mastiff)
East Siberian Laika (Nordic hunting dog)
Russo-European Laika (Nordic hunting dog)
Russkiy Tchiorny Terrier [Russian Black Terrier] (Pinscher and Schnauzer type)
Samoyed (Nordic sledge dog)
South Russian Shepherd Dog (sheepdog)
West Siberian Laika (Nordic hunting dog)
Serbia
Illyrian Shepherd Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Serbian Hound (medium scenthound)
Serbian Tricolour Hound (medium scenthound)
Slovakia
Slovakian Chuvach (sheepdog)
Slovakian Hound (medium scenthound)
Slovenský Hrubosrsty Stavac (griffon-type pointer)
Tchiorny Terrier (Tchiorny terrier)
Slovenia
Karst Shepherd Dog (mountain type mastiff)
Spain
Ca de Bou (mastiff)
Catalan Sheepdog (sheepdog)
Dogo Canario (mastiff)
Majorca Shepherd Dog (sheepdog)
Podenco Canario (primitive type-hunting dog)
Podenco Ibicenco (primitive type-hunting dog)
Pyrenean Mastiff (mountain type mastiff)
Spanish Greyhound (shorthaired sighthound)
Spanish Hound (medium scenthound)
Spanish Mastiff (mountain type mastiff)
Spanish Pointer (continental pointing dog)
Spanish Water Dog (water dog)
Sweden
Drever (small scenthound)
Hamiltonstövare (medium scenthound)
Norrbottenspets (Nordic hunting dog)
Schillerstövare (medium scenthound)
Smålandsstövare (medium scenthound)
Swedish Elkhound (Nordic hunting dog)
Swedish Lapphund (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
Swedish Vallhund (Nordic watchdog/herding dog)
Switzerland
Appenzeller Mountain Dog (Swiss mountain dog)
Bernese Mountain Dog (Swiss mountain dog)
Entlebucher Mountain Dog (Swiss mountain dog)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Swiss mountain dog)
Saint Bernard (mountain type mastiff)
Small Swiss Hound (4 varieties)
Small Bernese Hound (small scenthound)
Small Jura Hound (small scenthound)
Small Lucerne Hound (small scenthound)
Small Schwyz Hound (small scenthound)
Swiss Hound (4 varieties)
Bernese Hound (medium scenthound)
Jura Hound (medium scenthound)
Lucerne Hound (medium scenthound)
Schwyz Hound (medium scenthound)
Thailand
Thai Ridgeback (primitive type-ridgeback)
Tibet
Lhasa Apso (companion/toy dog)
Shih Tzu (companion/toy dog)
Tibetan Mastiff (mountain type mastiff)
Tibetan Spaniel (companion/toy dog)
Tibetan Terrier (companion/toy dog)
United States of America
Alaskan Malamute (Nordic sledge dog)
American Cocker Spaniel (flushing dog)
American Foxhound (large scenthound)
American Staffordshire Terrier (bull-type terrier)
American Water Spaniel (water dog)
Australian Shepherd (sheepdog)
Black and Tan Coonhound (large scenthound)
Boston Terrier (companion/toy dog)
Chesapeake Bay Retriever (retriever)
Siberian Husky (Nordic sledge dog)
Toy Fox Terrier (toy terrier)
Western Mediterranean
Havanese (companion/toy dog)
Zimbabwe
Rhodesian Ridgeback (primitive type-ridgeback)

You don’t need to bother to count the breeds; there are 418. And if you go with the American Kennel Club you can chop off a little more than half of them. The AKC, notorious snobs that they are, recognizes only 178.

But, I explained to Lynn and to Bill, who also objected, (he was still pushing for his not-to-visit, not-to-eat, not-to-listen-to, not-to-read slant), that they were both missing the concept. It wasn’t 1,000 Dog BREEDS to Own but rather 1,000 individual DOGS to Own Before You Die. Huge difference. Just take labs as an example. Since we became a couple thirty years ago my wife and I have owned 6 Labs…1 black, one brown and 4 blonde, (no, there’s no such thing as a Golden Labrador Retriever; they’re called either blonde or yellow,) and she would be the first to agree that all six were utterly different and distinct from the other five in looks, temperament, likes and dislikes, overall personality, ease/difficulty with which to train, etc., etc., etc. Sure, you had to get to know them over time to see the differences, but once you did you’d see they were six very different dogs, all in just one breed. The potential across just the 178 AKC-accepted breeds was crazy-making.

Anyways, the books been started and I hope to have a draft by some time next summer. Will it be objective? Probably not. Will it be completely factual? Are you kidding? Will it make me a truckload of money? Yes, you betcha. And, like my other books, show your CBA Membership Card and get 10% off the retail price.

Have a great rest of the week.



THE DAILY GRIST...“Direction is more important than speed. We are so busy looking at our speedometers that we forget the milestone.”

Milestones - Ahead and Behind
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, February 19, 2014


As I look back on 40+ years of playing music, there were a lot of steps along the way. Some of them I recognized as steps, some were specific goals, and others I only realized were breakthroughs as I’ve watched others go through them.

I imagine a lot of things I think of as significant breakthroughs are no big deal to some folks for whom playing music comes naturally. I speak then, for those of us who have to power through these obstacles.

As a teenager, I remember being taught bar chords by my cousin, and it was an epiphany. All the stuff I had learned on guitar up to that point had been within the first 3 frets. With a bar chord, I suddenly realized that there were a myriad of ways to approach how to play a song. It’s a very simple thing, but it taught me why guitars don’t just have 5 frets.

Watching my kids learn to play music, I had to learn to let them pick up some of these things on their own. Not that I’m terribly wise or anything, but I learned early on if I tried to help them too much they didn’t enjoy the process of discovery as much.

Left hand hammer-ons and pull-offs were a big step, but they weren’t discovered through one big “wow moment”. Some of it was laziness. I found that if was able to hammer on the next note in a melody, it freed up my pick to move the next note after that, and sped things up a bit. Ditto for pull-offs.

There are lots of performance and band milestones, too. The first time you play music in public is transformational. Most people have one of two reactions:

1) "Well, I'm never doing THAT again! What was I thinking?"
2) "Wow! I need to do this much more often!"

Either way, you're never the same.

Your first paying gig is a milestone too. I remember mine. I was about 15 (I remember I needed to be driven to the gig by my parents), and we had a rock band, and we somehow discovered that a middle school across town was having a dance and needed a band. We reached the "Talent Evaluation Committee" (two kids - one boy, one girl - who needed their parents to drive them to my garage to evaluate our band), and they came out to check us out.

We roared through a few songs, and it dawned on me that no one had ever heard us except for our long suffering families, and we were too young to check out many other bands of young teenagers either - we had no idea if we were good or not.

We got through a few songs, and said to the Committee "What did you think?".

The girl started to say "Well, we'll have to discuss this -- " and the boy blurted out, excitedly "I thought you guys are great!". The girl shot him a dirty look and they huddled away from earshot. After a few moments they came back and offered us the job for a shopping $45! It was so exciting!

Years later, I was blessed enough to see my youngest son perform with his teenage band, and all the emotions came flooding back. It's still exciting to perform, but that first time - well, that was special.

And so on it goes. I have set and reached a number of goals with regards to venues, songs, musical genres, etc - and it never really stops. But it does feel good to glance in the rear view mirror now and again and remember the good times, challenges met and adventures we have. Lord knows, it could all come to screeching halt at any time, and all I will have is the rear mirror view.





THE DAILY GRIST..."I don't care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right”--P.T. Barnum

A Reverse Domino Effect - PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS EDITORIAL
Today's column from Brian McNeal
Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Ever notice that the bands who appear to be the most successful are often the ones who seem to be in the headlines most often?

Never under estimate the value of a good publicist or public relations person - Even if you handle the chores yourself or share with other members of the band, getting yourself in the news is going to help your career.

I was talking to a young band member about this not long ago and the thought he had was that he wasn't really willing to get himself into a vehicle accident or willing to rob a bank just to get in the news. I wondered if most bands would think that way too.

I asked him what he thought constituted news. “Well,” he pondered for a moment, then said, “politics, disaster, crime and death”. Isn't it sad that, often, that is what we think constitutes a majority of the news.

However that is never all there is. Weddings, births, promotions, grand openings, triumphs and human interest all make the news on a daily basis as well.

“So you mean like when we're gonna play somewhere we should do up a press release?” he said. Yes, that is news but it may not be what gets you noticed. Every band is going to “PLAY SOME PLACE” - that's what bands do. So it becomes news to just a select few – your fans.

What get's you in the headlines is the OUTSTANDING things you do – or should be doing. The things that make your band different than all the rest – even if only for the moment. Many bands donate their time and talent to charity. But for the moment that you are teeing off, shooting hoops, running a marathon or bungee-jumping for a cause, you just may be the only one in your league doing so. That makes you special and worthy of a headline.

Before you jump off the bridge, tell the world you're going to do so. Then afterward, tell the world again what you did and what changed because of your actions. ... Now 55 kids will eat dinner tonight because of the money raised ... 100 homeless will have shelter thanks to the funds donated ... etc., etc. Always think Pre- and Post- when submitting a press release. Double your mileage!

Getting your band in the news has long-lasting positive effects. You'll find that the more you're in the news, the more your music is heard on the air, the more CDs or downloads you'll sell and the more shows you'll book. It's really a lot like all the dominoes standing back up again.

If you find it hard to “pat yourself on the back” so to speak, you're not alone. And that's exactly why you need a publicist or a manager to do it for you. If you can do it all by yourself, great. But is that what you're best at doing? Could someone other than you do it better?

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” - Fred R. Barnard in the December 1921 trade journal Printer's Ink”. Often said but not often enough put into practice. On average, 50 percent of the press releases received on this desk don't include a picture. Never underestimate the power of the camera. Why does every bride want a photographer at the wedding and reception? Even if all you shoot is video, always generate a set of stills from the file to be sent with press releases.

Here are a few quotes to ponder and keep in mind:

“I don't care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right” - P.T. Barnum

“Don't hide your light under a basket” - Mathew 5:15

“All I know is what I read in the papers” - Will Rogers



Contact Rick Bowman Send email for screenings or comments. Additional information about “Herschel Sizemore: Mandolin in B” can be found at < A HREF=”http://www.backyardgreenfilms.com”target=0>Backyard Green Films. Click here < A HREF=”mailto:james@jamesreams.com”>Send email to reach James Reams. For more information about his film “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass” check out his < A HREF=”http://www.jamesreams.com”target=0>website and click the Pioneers menu to see the film trailer, reviews, and more.











THE DAILY GRIST..."It's a long way to the delta; From the North Georgia hills; A tote sack full of ginseng; Won't pay no travelling bills; Now, I'm too old to ride the rails; Or thumb the road alone; So I guess I'll never make it back to home; My muddy water Mississippi delta home.”--Norman Blake, Ginseng Sullivan

Ginseng
Today’s Column from Bert Daniel
Monday, February 17, 2014


Most people know what ginseng is. It’s an herb, prized for centuries by the Chinese and you see it all the time these days as an ingredient in tea, energy drinks and cold remedies. What many people do not know is that ginseng grows all over the northern hemisphere, including America. In fact, the United States has been exporting ginseng to China since about 1860. It was one of Minnesota’s first cash crops.

If you’ve been to a lot of bluegrass jams you may have heard a song called Ginseng Sullivan. It’s been covered by the band Phish so a lot of people have heard it from all walks of music, not just Bluegrass and old time. You don’t hear the song called very much these days but I’ve heard it done a couple of times over the last ten years or so. It’s a song about a poor fellow who makes a meager living by digging ginseng. He’s trying to make enough money to move back to his native Mississippi delta from the cold hills of north Georgia. Norman Blake wrote a lot of great songs and that song has always been one of my favorites. But I always thought it was strange that the song was about ginseng, this obscure herb that nobody would care about if not for the Chinese.

It’s been more than forty years since Norman wrote that song. A lot has changed since then. Wild ginseng from Asia has been harvested to near extinction and wild ginseng from the U.S. can fetch as high as $1000 per pound. If Mr. Sullivan is alive today, I’ll bet he’s really enjoying life in the Mississippi delta.

Ginseng can be grown commercially and the biggest producing U.S. state today is Wisconsin. But it takes a lot of work to get the product established and about ten years for an investment to show a profit. Sort of like what they say about the wine business here in Sonoma county. If you want to make a small fortune, start with a large fortune. Commercially grown ginseng only fetches about $35 per pound.

Wild ginseng is where the easy money is. Anybody can walk out in the woods and look for a plant that resembles a Virginia creeper crossed with poison ivy. The root has a flesh-colored branching form that looks almost human. And because it’s on this side of the ocean, Chinese medicine traditionalists value the yin of American ginseng as a way of balancing the yang of their own over-harvested root.

After walking deep into the woods, you make sure the coast is clear (most states issue permits and fines are steep). If nobody is looking you scratch the earth for that precious root and fill your tote sack. Wash the dirt off your hands so nobody is the wiser and calmly make your escape.

When times are tough people will do almost anything to get by. Ginseng is becoming scarcer and scarcer in this country due to over harvesting. A few areas now have conservation programs going which encourage people to plant the seeds which once flourished from Maine to Georgia and from Ohio throughout the midwest.

Now the winters here they get too cold, so damp it makes me ill
Can’t dig no roots in the mountain side, the ground’s froze hard and still
You gotta wait at the foot of the hill
By next summer things turn right, the companies will pay high
I’ll make enough money to pay these bills and bid these mountains goodbye
Then he said with a sigh:

It’s a long way from the delta from the north Georgia hills
And a tote sack full of ginseng won’t pay no traveling bills
And I’m too old to ride the rails or thumb the road alone
Well I guess I’ll never make it back to home
My muddy water Mississippi delta home


Bon voyage Mr. Sullivan. Save some ginseng for me.

CBA Music Camp 2014: Get To Know A Few Instructors
Peter Langston, CBA Music Camp Director
Geoff Sargent, CBA Music Camp Liaison

Sunday February,16 2014

One of the really fun parts of music camp is getting to know new instructors. This year we have several instructors to welcome, and a few instructors to welcome back after a long absence. The best way to meet these, and the other, instructors would be to come to the Music Camp this year from June 8th-11th at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, California. But in the meantime, to tease your Bluegrass and Old Time palate, here are a few biographies.

Karen Celia Heil is teaching Old-Time Guitar level 2 and has been playing acoustic guitar longer than she cares to admit. She has been in many a band, jam, played in living rooms, porches, stages and recording studios through the years, playing country, swing, Cajun, folk... During the past decade or so, she’s been concentrating on Old-Time Southern Fiddle music, both on guitar and fiddle, learned both from old scratchy field recordings and on yearly pilgrimages to the Appalachian South, mingling with the current players. In addition to her playing with the Bucking Mules, she performs with the San Francisco trio the Knuckle Knockers. She has taught numerous years at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Lark in the Morning Camp, Fiddle Kids Camp, the Berkeley String Band Class, and teaches privately in San Francisco.
Last year John Mailander and Molly Tuttle gave an unforgettable performance on Vern’s stage. This year John is back to teach Mandolin level 1. He is a San Diego-based musician and graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Playing in a variety of styles on the fiddle, mandolin, and various other stringed instruments, he has become known for his soulful voice as a soloist, improviser, and writer. John has shared the stage with acclaimed artists including the Alison Brown Quartet, Victor Wooten, Tim O’Brien, and Christopher Guest. He was one of sixteen musicians selected to participate in the Savannah Music Festival’s prestigious Acoustic Music Seminar in both 2012 and 2013. John played fiddle in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s musical, Bright Star, for its premier run in New York. He has performed at events including the San Diego Symphony Summer Pops, FreshGrass Music Festival, and Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. John currently maintains a busy performance schedule with artists including Tony Trischka & Territory, Molly Tuttle, Chris Stuart & Backcountry, Darol Anger, and others. At Berklee, John studied under the instruction of John McGann, Darol Anger, and Julian Lage.

Chris Henry, is teaching Mandolin level 3. He is the son of bluegrass musicians Red and Murphy Henry and grew up around the old school sound. After intense study in his formative years, the International Bluegrass Music Association, referring to his mandolin picking, has called him "the premiere Monroe stylist of his generation.” Chris moved to Nashville about 10 years ago and was fortunate to develop his singing with great performers like Shawn Camp and Verlon Thompson among many others. He received an IBMA nomination for Song of the Year in 2011 for writing "Walking West to Memphis.” Chris also enjoys working as a musical educator, teaching workshops at colleges">colleges and camps across the country as well as giving private lessons, and producing recordings from his studio in Nashville. At my first music camp I went to his mom’s workshop on learning music by ear and expect Chris to be an even more memorable teacher!

Keep tuned for future Welcome columns where we will feature more instructors.

Do I really need to give you a reminder that music camp registration opened at noon on February 7th, 2014 so get your web browser over to our Music Camp website at http://www.cbamusiccamp.org to register and to get more breaking news. If you have other questions, please contact us at info@cbamusiccamp.org. Keep on jamming and I hope to see ya'll at Music Camp in June, the CBA Spring Campout in April, the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Folk Festival March 8, and the Quebe Sisters on February 22 at the Morgan Hill Grange Hall.


THE DAILY GRIST..."Bluegrass will never leave you. Bluegrass doesn’t just hang around for your good looks or money. It will always be there for you when you go to work, go to the store, get home after a long day, and when you go to sleep. You might not always hear it, but it’s there. It’s just hiding behind a thin veil, just waiting for you to lift it and let it be heard."--Cameron Little

Bluegrass Love
Today's column from Cameron Little
Saturday, February 15, 2014


Valentine’s Day is typically a day to show your love for someone, whether that someone is your significant other, your mother or father, your siblings, children, or even pets. But let’s just say that your life is like the typical upbeat bluegrass song (Please note, this is advanced bluegrass content performed by professionals in a safe environment. Do not try to be this sad at home). Your spouse cheated on you. Your parents died when you were young and/or got shot when their moonshine still was discovered. Your siblings stole all the life insurance when your parents died and you refuse to speak to them now. Your children decided to move out because the family business was too dangerous (i.e. moonshine still owner). Oh, and the revenuers ran over the family dog.

So now what? Well, here’s a list of reasons that you should give your love to bluegrass, instead of moping about the fact that prohibition is over and moonshine is no longer such a lucrative business venture:

1. Bluegrass will never lie to you
Music is one of the purest things on the planet, and therefore incapable of lying to you.

2. Bluegrass will never leave you
Bluegrass doesn’t just hang around for your good looks or money. It will always be there for you when you go to work, go to the store, get home after a long day, and when you go to sleep. You might not always hear it, but it’s there. It’s just hiding behind a thin veil, just waiting for you to lift it and let it be heard.

3. Bluegrass is full of love
While not always present in the lyrics, bluegrass music in general is one of the most loving genres of music, especially if you immerse yourself in it. Every time you go to a festival, or get people together to jam, you are showing bluegrass your love, and it will give back to you whenever it can.

4. Bluegrass doesn’t need presents
You don’t need to buy bluegrass a fancy car or a new watch. It only needs your participation and perpetuation. Every time you pick up that guitar, or put on some Bill Monroe, you’re giving bluegrass a love card.

5. Bluegrass isn’t embarrassed by you
Bluegrass will never judge you. It doesn’t care one bit what you look like, what your weight and height is, where you live, what kind of car you drive, or how much you make a year. It doesn’t even care how good your instrument is, it just wants to be played.

6. Bluegrass is loyal
While it’s not capable of playing fetch or wagging its tail, bluegrass can be one of your most loyal pets. Like a pet, it needs to be nourished, but as long as it has its basic needs met, it gets along with everyone. It won’t nip at your hand or ever try and guard its food from you. Although I can’t guarantee that it won’t keep you up all night. That part is completely up to you.

7. Bluegrass isn’t out to get you
You don’t have to worry about what bluegrass might be saying behind your back or if it’s trying to cut you out of the will. It would never even consider doing something to hurt you.

8. Bluegrass will never fight with you
Bluegrass is always harmonious. It might be a hassle to get a particular lick down sometimes, but bluegrass will actually try and guide you and help you along the way. It’s always thinking exactly what you’re thinking, and playing what you’re playing. It never stops in its tracks and decides it doesn’t want to go on any farther, it gives its all and keeps going until you’re ready to call it a day.

9. Bluegrass isn’t demanding
You can spend hours and hours practicing a song, trying to perfect it and make it better, or you can come home and play a few notes before drifting off to sleep. You can even go days without playing, and just try and fit it it when you have time. Bluegrass never expects more than what you can give, and it always gives back more than it takes. It never wants you to do something you don’t want to do, or play something you’re not capable of playing.

10. Bluegrass always remembers
Even if you go to college and leave your instrument at home, or quit your habit of playing music every day because your job is too demanding, bluegrass won’t forget about you. It remembers everything you were capable of, and will try to jog your memory if you have put it aside for a few years and are feeling a bit rusty. It doesn’t feel let down if you don’t remember to play it. Even if you put it aside, it doesn’t put YOU aside, and it will pick you up where you left off, ready for the next song.

So if you find yourself feeling down because nobody sent you a Valentine’s card, or the revenuers found your still again, just pause for a moment and remember that bluegrass will always be around to comfort you. For better or for worse. So let’s remember to give it our gratitude every once in a while, as well as our love.

(Cameron Little is a bluegrass lovin’ teen from the Sierra Foothills, who is almost healed from a recent chainsaw wound, while simultaneously taking his first semester of full-time college courses)


THE DAILY GRIST..."I know it ain't perfect but it will be some day."--Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger
Today's column from Cliff Compton
Friday, February 14, 2014


And I’m walking down from the very back of the Amphitheater in the Rose garden next to some thin haired old man carrying a banjo case and the look of a man who ate light and slept little and
I’m talking to him like an old friend because
This was a great day in my young life
And I’ve been thinking about this song about how people are scratching all over the street because the rabbits had nothing to eat
And I’d heard it on a Pete Seeger album I picked up in a used record bin
In the same section where “The Chuckwagon Gang” and the “Weavers” kept Odetta, and Doc Watson company and I didn’t know Pete Seeger from Fred Flintstone but I bought it because Mike Seeger was a “Weaver” so I figured Pete was probably O.K. and I heard he wrote “Where have all the flowers gone” and I was 22 and recently out of the army
And that was during Vietnam and that line about “where have all the young men gone” always choked me up
Because I knew where all those young men had gone
And as I’m walking up the aisle toward the stage,
I’m telling this old man about this record I found
By this guy that was gonna play today and there was this song about how the people were scratching all over the street
Because the rabbits had nothing to eat
At least that’s the way I remember it now
And I read in the paper that he was gonna be playing here today free
And I didn’t have any money, but I had a Pete Seeger album
And he sang “If I had a hammer” he said I’d hammer in the morning, and I thought not me, I slept in the morning, because I was up late playing my guitar
Playing those songs, like the one about how people were scratching all over the street because the rabbits had nothing to eat
And the old man didn’t say much
He just looked over the crowd
The community organizers
The petition gatherers for Gus Hall and the communist party
The workers with their union signs
And he smiled at me like the old and tired do
When youth is caught up in the discovery of what everybody already knows
And I said, “I’m going right to the front of the stage”, and I did
And I think I said, “You want to sit here with me?”
And he just smiled
And walked up on stage
And opened up his banjo case


THE DAILY GRIST..."My life has been what you might call an uneventful one, and it seems there is not much of interest to tell. I have many hobbies. Some of these are hunting, fishing, leatherwork, reading, painting and playing western music. I have thought about making a career of western music if I am good enough but I will just have to wait and see how that turns out. -- From a school paper by 16-year-old Charles Hardin Holley of Lubbock, Texas, later known as Buddy Holly.



Final vinyl
Today's column from George Martin
Thursday, February 14, 2014

We have been trying to downsize. After my mother died three years ago Barbara and I discovered what it is like to clean out the house of someone who saved everything. After we emptied and rehabbed Mom’s place we rented it to a woman who was something of a clean freak and who was proud of her “less is more” lifestyle. The place was always spic and span and there was never a lot of stuff lying around.

I was impressed. I knew we would never reach that zen level of living (hell, just my banjos clutter up my office a lot and that doesn’t count the guitars, mandolins, and my bass) but I knew we could do better. We went through our bookshelves and gave away boxes of books. I sent a bunch of shirts and pants to the second-hand store. I even reduced the number of neckties to the exact number of holders on my tie rack.

Then Barbara said, “You should get rid of your big stereo and vinyl records.”

All that stuff took up a good portion of the living room: a large, old cabinet with a turntable, 5-disc CD changer, twin-deck cassette deck, a receiver-amplifier unit and a two large speaker cabinets with about six speakers in each. We gave that stuff to a couple of fellows who hang around the metal recycling yard near where we live. Then I turned to the “upstairs records,” about 30 linear inches of 33 1/3 rpm albums that had lived in the stereo cabinet. Down in the basement there were another three feet or so of albums, all boxed up.

The downstairs albums wouldn’t be much of a problem; I had sorted through all my records a few years ago and determined that these eventually would go. But the upstairs albums were the ones that I had an emotional connection to. In some cases I remembered buying them, from others I had learned songs that I have sung for many years. A few, like Songs from the Ozarks by Vern & Ray are not replaceable. That album was released without a contract, Vern and Ray never got any money from it, and it has not surprisingly never been released on CD.

I probably don’t really need Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee album, but I remember the great pleasure I used to get when I was performing with my first bluegrass band and sang “...we don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy like those hippies out in San Francisco do” when my hair was down to my shoulders.

Some of the albums contain performances that have boggled my mind. The Starday issue of New Grass Revival has a photo of an impossibly young Sam Bush with long, wavy hair and dressed in bell bottoms with colorful applique on the cuffs. But more importantly it has the late Courtney Johnson’s banjo solo on a song called “Cold Sailor.”

The song itself is a wonderful one by Steve Brines and Jim Smoak that never caught on; I think it should be a jam standard. Johnson was a great melodic-style banjo player and he created a break (including stealing a popular Vassar Clements fiddle lick of the time) that still resonates in my head.

Another astonishing banjo performance is by Little Roy Lewis on a record called Gospel Banjo. I had heard a live take of Roy on the radio playing a medley of “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” It sounded so cool I tracked down the record by mail order and sent for it. Then I sat down with my banjo to try to at least approximate Roy’s version. Now, remember, those are not three-chord songs and I expected learning them to be tricky. I struggled and couldn’t even come close to what he was doing. And then a light went on: Roy was playing in D tuning!

Then there’s County 726 The Shenandoah Valley Quartet, one of my two favorite gospel albums of all time, the other being Ralph Stanley’s Cry from the Cross which is also in that pile. Jim Eanes sings lead on that album and the songs have become classic: “I’ll Be No Stranger There,” “In His Arms I’m Not Afraid,” and a bunch more.

I could go on, but long story short, some of these albums are going to have to stick around.

They can bury me with them.

THE DAILY GRIST..."Home - where my love lies, waiting silently for me.”-- Simon & Garfunkel

Going Home
Today’s Column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, February 12,2014


I have said many times, one of the appeals of bluegrass music is the stories, and there are many recurring themes, some of which I have outlined in previous columns.

One of the most touching recurring themes that have touched me over the years is the love of the home land, or the home place (sometimes referred to as the “old home place”).

In bluegrass lore, many a young man (it’s usually a young man) has been tempted to leave the cradle of his birth to explore the world. Sometimes this wanderlust is precipitated by heartache (a love lost), but often the reason for the drive to leave the old home place is not so well articulated. Regardless, the hero of the story foolishly leaves home to seek his fortune or adventure in the big wide world.

So what happens?

Invariably the protagonist of the story, regrets having left, and this regret frames the story. Sometimes the sense of loss is just for the sights, sound and smells of home, but sometimes, it extends to coming back home to finding a complete ruin where the beloved home used to be (see “Old Home Place” or “Love of the Mountains”).

This is not a new sentiment. Back in the very early 1900’s, Thomas Wolfe coined the phrase “You can’t go home again”, and the implications of this go way beyond a specific cabin or ‘home place”.

It boils down (I think) to a very human tendency to think that how things used to be are superior to how things are now. We used to make fun of our grandparents for getting caught up in the “good old days” but we are all guilty of this as we get older. The past, obscured by the rose-colored glasses of memory, become a magical time when no one locked their doors, and everyone had respect for their elders.

It’s probably true that past was simpler, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean better. The past we worship was simpler, yes, but it also included sorrows, prejudices and other bad aspects that magically disappear in the gauzy view of the past.

We all want to go home somehow, and that’s natural and makes good fodder for songs, old and new. But the “home” of years past will almost always disappoint if the goal is to realize all the memories and pleasures of years gone by. Things can’t remain the same, but that doesn’t mean the old home place can’t be the source for new - and just as wonderful -- memories!



Ginseng
Today’s Column from Bert Daniel
Monday, February 17,2014


Most people know what ginseng is. It’s an herb, prized for centuries by the Chinese and you see it all the time these days as an ingredient in tea, energy drinks and cold remedies. What many people do not know is that ginseng grows all over the northern hemisphere, including America. In fact, the United States has been exporting ginseng to China since about 1860. It was one of Minnesota’s first cash crops.

Demographics and Bluegrass Festivals
Today's column from Ted Lehmann
Tuesday, February 11, 2014


It seems to me, and this may be based on the kinds of events we choose to attend, that the audiences at many bluegrass festivals are growing older, much older, while the events fail to attract new younger, more affluent audiences, particularly those with children. Many events are being canceled, and some have responded by reducing the quality of their lineup, pulling their horns in still further. We can count on traditional bluegrass continuing to be played, even after those who attended Fincastle, the first bluegrass festival, are gone. Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and the rest will be remembered and will continue to be played. Their work, and that of the folk singers, collectors, and old-time players who preceded them as well as the folkies and rockers who came along afterward will still thrill and influence younger players and their best work will continue being played as part of the bluegrass repertoire. Nevertheless, time is taking its toll. The Beatles debuted in New York fifty years ago and changed the music game forever, just the way the big bands and jazz players had in generations before. Many musicians I talk to give credit to the founders of bluegrass, but when I ask them what they listen to, the talk about today's people on the edge, many of whom I've never heard of. How can these modern innovators fail to influence the music played by bluegrass derived acoustic string bands today? What will we have to do to continue growing this music while keeping the audience, both young and old engaged in what's happening in music today.

I believe the first step promoters and radio stations must do is give up on purity. Already the lines between traditional bluegrass and classic country have been blurred almost to non-existence. The influences of all forms of rock, soul, rap, jazz, and more are already raising their heads in bluegrass, smoothed over, toned down, and made more acceptable, but they're there. An event that advertises a mixture of music will attract a broader demographic. In order to attract this kind of audience, promoters must raise prices. The days of a four day fifty dollar festival are long gone. Good bands need to be paid and they deserve to be paid, too. Furthermore, it's not unusual for these bands to feature Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers as well as Tom Petty and the Allman Brothers in their repertoire. By booking the better and more varied bands that increased price and attendance can generate, promoters can increase the assurance of continued successful events.

Three things that can increase the attendance by a younger and more diverse demographic in events are youth programs, supervised activities of children, extensive jamming, and band contests. Each of these elements encourages young families to attend, get their children involved, and become involved themselves. As many festivals have reduced the percentage of local and regional bands that are booked to their festivals as a way to encourage people to buy tickets to see more “name” bands, the opportunities for young bands have decreased. One incentive of band contests can be an appearance at the festival for the winner or a guaranteed booking in next year's event. This provision costs little and can attract five to ten bands and all their friends to a festival. HoustonFest, one of our favorite small festivals, held in Galax, VA in May is filled with young bands playing the music they love. It's all acoustic, but beyond that the range of influences is almost endless, yet all of them trace their roots back to old time and the founders of music. It's a wonderful and interesting event attracting a wide range of young musicians. Another provision that would be attractive to a younger demographic would be a dance friendly area near the stage but not blocking view of those who want to sit and listen. Many younger people want to express their appreciation of music in movement, make sure the opportunity is there.

I believe the bluegrass music festival still has a great future, despite the attractiveness of other delivery formats and the difficulty of uncertain weather. But in order to retain the current audience, as long as its members can continue to attend, and add a younger, more vigorous new fan base consisting of a more diverse population, it's necessary to rethink the constitution of the structure of events and the bands performing there.
--
Ted Lehmann
tlehmann@ne.rr.com
www.tedlehmann.blogspot.com




THE DAILY GRIST..."This is the new face of bluegrass. It’s young. It’s exciting. It’s passionate. It’s a community that respects its history, knows its roots, looks ahead for ways to innovate and modernize a genre that has been around for generations, and seeks new ways to merge an old tradition with new technologies.”-- thebluegrasssituation.com

How I got hooked on bluegrass
Guest column from Chris Lewis
Monday, February 10, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Since 2002 the web team has periodically cast out its net in an effort to continue to enlarge our collection of Hooked on Bluegrass Stories. That process is currently underway, and this morning we’ll share a story that came in just over the weekend. Before she ran off with Randy Pits to Nashville in 1997, Chris Lewis was a Northern CA picker and singer that any of the new bands forming around that time would have been happy as clams to recruit. Here’s Chris’ story.)


I wasn’t one of those people who heard a Flatt & Scruggs song or a Bill Monroe album and—bam!—was instantly hooked on bluegrass. In fact, when I watched the “Beverly Hillbillies” as a girl, I would cringe when Flatt & Scruggs were on and turn the channel, being more of a pop radio listener or later, a rock-n-roller. My parents were essentially easy-listening music fans, and my dad’s favorite version of country was Ray Price.

So I got into bluegrass very gradually, after having first bridged from rock into country/folk. When I first heard Crosby, Stills & Nash sing “Teach Your Children,” I first noticed the beauty of three-part harmonies. Moving to Texas in my senior year of high school, I got caught up in the country-rock craze. It wasn’t until I moved back to California in 1975 that I first heard the word “bluegrass.” My boyfriend’s brother at the time used the term when he flat-picked tunes on the guitar with his friend on the front porch. I thought I had died and gone to heaven and I longed to hear guitar-picking sessions whenever I had the chance. What I remember is that they picked tunes off of the “Old and in the Way” album. I sought out that album and I guess that was my first introduction to actually listening to ensemble bluegrass.

Then the next stage of my affair with bluegrass happened when a subsequent boyfriend introduced me to Tony Rice records, including Manzanita and I think an early one called “Guitar.” I remember listening to those records over and over, marveling over the intensity of precision and emotion. That boyfriend, who lived in Sacramento, suggested we go to a bluegrass festival—my first hearing of such an event. It was 1976, and the festival was at Grass Valley. It was a Sunday; we just went up for the day, and the crowd was small. I honestly do not remember much about it. But I don’t think I missed another CBA festival after that for some 20 years before leaving California for Nashville, where I live now.

Tony Rice inspired me to start my hand at flat-picking and also rhythm guitar. So I would trudge with my Yamaha guitar (12-stringed guitar with only six strings on it) to area jam sessions, where I got to know pickers who should be familiar to CMA regulars: Dave Baker, Kathy Barwick, George Goodell, among others. That’s when the bluegrass legends starting entering my musical vocabulary. The first legendary bluegrass artist that really grabbed me emotionally was Ralph Stanley (not the brothers yet). I couldn’t get enough of those great high-mountain harmonies. After that, I became interested in any bluegrass I could get my hands on. Thanks to people like Kathy and George, I started playing more regularly, learning how to pick out lead, first on guitar and then, in about 1981, mandolin. That’s when I also hooked up with Paul Shelasky, who more than anyone influenced my mandolin playing.

I got hooked to the point where the late 70s through the 90s were pretty much a blur as far as any other popular music was concerned. Bluegrass was all I listened to. At times I become self-conscious because I can’t sing along with the songs of the times my friends listened to, like anything from The Police or Bruce Springsteen. But now I consider it a proud moment when I can mouth the words to some of the most obscure bluegrass songs ever recorded. My husband, Randy Pitts, is also long-smitten with bluegrass, and thanks to his relentless pursuit of uncovering all the gems the genre has to offer, we’ll both be hooked for life.



THE DAILY GRIST..."I know it ain't perfect but it will be some day."--Pete Seegar

Pete Seeger
Today's column from Cliff Compton
Friday, February 14, 2014



THE DAILY GRIST..."Well, I’m gonna do right by my ma, And I’m gonna do right by my pa. Gonna stand right by that cabin door, Ain’t gonna work or worry anymore.”—Bill Clifton, The Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

Blue Ridge
Today's column from Bert Daniel
Sunday, February 9, 2014


You’d be pretty hard pressed to come up with the name of a mountain range which is more storied and sung about than the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially if you’re a Bluegrass fan. The Blue Ridge will forever be my favorite mountains. They were the first mountains I ever saw and nothing could ever come close to that. Now that I live in the west, of course I marvel at the grandeur of snow-capped giants like the peaks of the Sierra or those of the Rockies. As I write this column today from Healdsburg, you can see a lovely rind of snow on Mount Saint Helena from our last cold rain.

But to see those gracefully rounded old mountain peaks of the Blue Ridge, fading into the distance forever with a halo of smoke and haze. To me">me, that sight will always be what mountains should look like.

Blue (ooh, ooh, ooh) Ridge
Do you call for all your children like you’ve been calling me">me?
Blue (ooh, ooh, ooh) Ridge
Why are you calling me">me home?

It’s been about ten years since I took the kids to visit our relatives in Greenville, South Carolina. My brother has since passed away and his ashes have been scattered in his beloved Blue Ridge Mountains, which are visible from the city where he lived. He knew the trout streams around the Blue Ridge and he loved the area.

When I die won’t you bury me">me on the mountain
Far away, near my Blue Ridge Mountain home

On that last visit, we made a trip up to Highlands, North Carolina, which is in the heart of the mountains and we stayed there a couple of nights. If you’ve never visited the Blue ridge you need to go. I need to go back. The rhododendron and mountain laurel bloom magnificently in the spring and the fall colors of the changing leaves are the best anywhere.

When the moon shines on the Blue Ridge Mountains
And it seems I can hear my sweetheart call
How I long to be near to my darling
When the golden leaves begin to fall

When I was a kid, one year my parents took the whole family to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. The Grove Park had a huge stone fireplace in the lobby and there was a lot of fun stuff to do around there. We went to Cornelius Vanderbilt’s gigantic mansion, the Biltmore House. We slid down a natural rock slide into a cool rushing stream. We ate ice cream from a local dairy. I had never had so much fun.

The next summer the whole family packed up all of our swimming gear and beach balls and sun tan lotion for our annual vacation. We had to have everything in the car for a sleepy 5 AM departure to Myrtle Beach. After we had all piled in my dad, who was the only one fully awake, played his usual joke by asking “Well, should we go to the mountains or the beach?” I fell for it. “The mountains!” Everybody laughed at me">me.

I got those Blue Ridge Mountain blues
And I’ll stand right here and say
My grip is packed to travel and I’m scratching gravel
For those Blue Ridge far away

Right now, I can’t drive to my favorite mountains within a day, but for more than half of my life I could. When I lived in Maryland, I used to ride my bike up South Mountain in Pennsylvania. And the Blue Ridge extends from there all the way down into Georgia. As the song says:

Way down in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Way down where the tall pines grow
Lives my sweetheart of the mountains
She’s my little Georgia Rose

I’d love to go back to the Blue Ridge. I just have to find the time. You can ride your bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way from Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and it’s beautiful the whole way, I can assure you. I’ve ridden it all before. The music you hear along the way would surely entertain you. Those mountain people can really play and you’ll hear some unique mountain sounds you never heard anywhere else.

I love the Blue Ridge Mountains with all my heart. And I hope that the beauty of those mountains and the culture it fostered will live on forever.

On the Blue Ridge Mountains is where I’ll take my stand
A rifle on my shoulder, six-shooter in my hand
Yes, I’ve been all around this world

I’ve been all around this world but I’ve never found a more special place than the Blue Ridge Mountains.



THE DAILY GRIST…”No father anywhere at any time ever treated his progeny with more care and tender love than Lloyd Loar his children, which is to say his mandolins.-Darenfield Wilson, Stringed Instrument Authority, Professor Emeritus at the University of Southwest Pennsylvania

My Life as a Mandolin
Today’s column from John A. Karsemeyer
Saturday, February 8, 2014,


(WARNING! Mandolin Geek Content).

“Timber!” The two giant trees were falling from grace at precisely the same time in different parts of the world. Neither one could know that they would eventually meet and become as one. A sudden chill in the noontime air accompanied the fragrance of freshly cut wood after the chain saws had done what they were created to do.

I can’t remember how old my parents were when they passed. I don’t have a clue. I do know that they were cut down in the prime of their lives. They were at least one hundred years old, maybe more. In any case their fall carved the way for my birth. Some people believe a cat has nine lives. I believe that it’s possible for a tree to have at least two lives; one life while anchored in the ground reaching toward the heavens, and another life after an earth shattering collision with the ground. If things come together in just the right way, a reincarnation occurs.

My father was a tall, handsome, proud maple tree. My mother was a beautiful, gentle spruce. It’s been said that opposites attract, and in this case it’s true. My parents got together in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1923. The ceremony was held in the Gibson Mandolin Chapel (at least that’s what I call it). I was born on July 9, 1923. I’m not sure how destiny works. I could have become a guitar, banjo, fiddle, or an acoustic bass. But I didn’t. I became a mandolin. Thank you destiny!

The first twenty years of my life are mostly a mystery to me. I have the feeling that I didn’t get out much, didn’t travel a lot, or even see the light of day on a regular basis. Oh I traveled some, but not as much as I wanted. You know how it is when you’re young and you want to go out and see the whole world for yourself. Don’t you? I harbor an instinct that I was in the dark much of the time, and that my life was generally tedious. Not all of the time mind you, but in the grand scheme of things; looking at the big musical picture back then.

Flashbacks! They invade my mind from time to time. I have visions of having been in a closet, under a bed, in an attic, or stored in a garage for long periods of time. Way longer than I would have liked. But that’s all behind me now. Even so, my memory intermittently entertains musical snippets of Bach and Beethoven, which gives me the idea that I may have had some classical training along the way. I really can’t remember. But why else would it linger in my mind? At my age it’s no surprise that I have some memory loss. So regarding that part of my past, the first twenty years, I like to think, “Case closed.”

But when I turned twenty my life exploded like a 4th of July fireworks that you humans have every year here in the USA. I remember it well. I was in a barber shop, and this guy named Bill Monroe walked in. Probably he was there for a hair cut, a shave, or just to chat with the other guys who were getting all gussied-up.

At the time I didn’t know it but I was for sale. There I am hanging on a wall in that barber shop in Miami, Florida in the year 1943. And for whatever reason or reasons pertaining to fate, destiny, chance, or just plain dumb luck, Bill Monroe bought me. I can still picture his eyes, as big as banjo heads, when he first spotted me. In fact I was the first thing he saw after he walked past the spinning red and white barber pole and went through the front door of the shop. His eyes became glued to the paper sign that I held between my strings, which in big red letters read, “For sale.” As he carefully took me off the wall and played me, he was somehow able to conceal his euphoria so that none of the other guys in the barber shop could detect his excitement. He didn’t want to give himself away to the point of having to pay an arm and a leg to buy me. Bill was always looking for a bargain. As he began plucking on my heart strings, my pulse suddenly began racing, faster and faster. My heart was thumping outside my body.

“Who is the owner of this mandolin?” Bill said. A guy getting his hair cut in the second barber chair said, “I am. Yep, that would be me.” “How much you want for it?” Bill asked. “Well I don’t know, now that you ask. I know they cost $250 when they were new. I got this one from a cousin who passed away last month. He lived in New York and was in a mandolin orchestra. Said he got it from somebody else. I play it a little now and then, but not much.” “How about seventy-five bucks?” Bill questioned. “Seventy-five bucks! Are you kidding me?” “No I’m not kidding you. I’ve got seventy-five dollars cash on the barrel head that I’m willin’ to give you right now!” The reluctant owner thought more about it and replied, “Let’s see now, seventy-five dollars cash money right now. Times are hard these days, but I don’t know. Well, let’s see, I’d have to think on that a bit. I sure could use the cash right now, but I don’t know. Not sure if my wife would be okay with that.” “Okay, how about one hundred and fifty bucks, right here and right now!” Bill said, his voice almost reaching a yell. “Boy howdy mister, you’ve got a deal. Let’s see your money up front!” Bill reached into his left shirt pocket, grabbed the money clip that held his personal stash, and completed the deal that made history in the world of bluegrass music.

Thinking on it more right now, luck was probably the reason Bill and I first got together. Especially if you consider that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Ah yes, luck reared its lovely head; luck for Bill, and luck for me.

Right now I’m having more weird thoughts about my life before Bill got me. I have a hunch that I was bought and sold a number of times. To be honest, back then I felt like a human slave much of the time. A slave, that is, in the sense of belonging to different owners; being bought and sold on different occasions in my life. I have to say that there wasn’t a hint of abuse to me that I could see on my body back then, as I occasionally looked at my reflection in the mirror on the opposite wall across from where I was hanging in that barber shop long ago. So my owners during that first twenty years of my life were obviously good to me. No sir, not a hint of abuse or neglect. But yes sir, even so, I felt like a slave who was never able to become what he or she truly could have been. But when Bill Monroe laid down his cash on a table in that barber shop I felt like I had been freed. Oh sure, I know what you’re thinking, that Bill bought me too. But I had a feeling of excitement that this time was going to be something way different.

Bill hurriedly walked out of that barber shop through the front door carrying me in my nice hard black case with the soft green interior. Getting his hair trimmed no longer interested him. As I was being carried along I was thinking, “I don’t know why, but I know my life is going to change.” And change it did. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was on my way!

Things began to get exciting. For one thing I got to travel. Not just travel, but really travel! Man oh man. I went to all kinds of different towns, cities, states, and countries. And those bluegrass festivals, concert halls, and other venues! There were so many of those musical shindigs that I lost count. And not only that, Mr. Bill gave me constant attention. For the first time in my life I was out of my mandolin case more than I was in it. Everyday! It’s like Bill’s musical spirit would get constipated if he didn’t play me as close to 24/7 as was humanly possible. I myself could have done that, but even Bill, as strong as he was, couldn’t have kept up with me on that one.
But the biggest “wow” I experienced was the music that came out of me after Bill Monroe worked his magic. It was something brand new; never knew I had it in me. Bluegrass love bit me hard. I think you know what I’m talkin’ about. Time became irrelevant.

As the years went by I got all kinds of attention from thousands of humans. Seems like everybody who played a mandolin or knew about mandolins gave me attention, and way more than just a few folks wanted to have a mandolin just like me. I have a hunch that many mandolin players wanted me for their own, but that was not going to happen.

The front of my body looked like a brilliant yellow sun bursting out of a chocolate Cremona brown sky. “Sunburst” is what mandolin makers call it. And my backside was also a visual feast for the eyes. “Mighty purty,” some folks described me back then. That was a long time ago, but even today I still have my fancy scroll on the Left side of my upper body where Bill attached one end of his mandolin strap. And I have two design “points” on the right side that stick out from my round, firm, and fully-packed musical body. You can use one of the points to anchor me to your leg if you’re sitting down playing. And even if you’re standing and playing and don’t need that point to rest on your leg, it still looks good. The other point, the second point, is also part of my design. It all just works together well. As one famous luthier put it, “Even though the design is asymmetrical, the scroll and two points give it a balance.” Even if I do say so myself, “I look good!”

“Florentine” design is what I’m talkin’ about. It has to do with a style of art in Florence, Italy a long time ago. I have it on good authority that this American guy by the name of Oroville Gibson designed my American ancestors. Don’t ask me why Oroville went for a design that came from Italy. Maybe he had a great love for pizza? And then later on this other guy named Lloyd Loar refined that design to make me into what I consider to be my beautiful body and incomparable “voice.” Lloyd added the number “5” to designate my body style. But instead of calling me a “Florentine Body Style 5,” I got the nickname of “F-5.” That’s okay with me, sort of. To be honest about it I would have preferred the nickname, “Flora.” But I didn’t have any control over it. It all turned out okay.

As I mentioned, Lloyd Loar was the guy in charge of making sure that I developed in the best way possible. Lloyd was an acoustical engineer. He made sure that all of the mandolin “doctors” (musical instrument pediatricians is what I call ‘em) did the correct procedures to insure that my birth would result in the ultimate musical outcome. And you know what? I was beyond happy with the results.

I mean it could have been way worse. Like the result of the creation by that Dr. Frankenstein, if ya get my drift. Anyhow, back to Bill Monroe.

It’s my opinion that Bill Monroe and I really were partners. For me it was a symbiotic relationship of sorts; he got something out of it and so did I. He created a ton of new songs and tunes, and made a pretty good living. I got to “sing” my heart out, travel, and had medical benefits (so to speak). You know, like adjustments and regular check-ups as the years went by.

Bill was good to me; most of the time. Intermittently he would “whip me like a mule.” This is in the musical sense of that term, and it just means he played me really hard. Bill’s strong hands played me so hard that sometimes my best friends, the mandolin stings, would break. Sometimes two or three of them would break during just one performance. It didn’t hurt me, but I felt sorry for my string buddies who didn’t make it.

I found out in the long run that being “whipped” like that really was in my best interest. That’s because it made my wooden body vibrate in a big way, made me really “open up” and be the best that I could be regarding how I sounded. And not only that, some folks would swear on the Holy Bible that I was the best sounding Gibson F-5 mandolin that they ever heard. Guess that’s why I often referred to Bill as, “Father.” He knew what he was doing to help me develop and bring me along. It helped Bill too because big things were in store for him in the world of bluegrass music; even if he didn’t know it at the time when he first rescued me from being a wall flower in that barber shop.

‘Course now people are humans. And humans make mistakes. They sometimes do things they shouldn’t do, right along with the good things. All I’ve got to say is that Bill was definitely human.

I remember one time when Bill got especially mad at me. Well I shouldn’t say mad at me personally, but mad at someone else for doing something to me that he didn’t like. But he took it out on me anyhow. I don’t understand it, but he did. It was when he sent me to some of those Gibson Company “musical doctors” I told you about for a check-up. They did some stuff to me that Bill didn’t ask them to do and he didn’t like it. In fact it made him so mad his blood boiled! So he took a sharp object and scratched out the name of those doctors’ private practice where they created me. That wouldn’t have been so bad in itself; but that name, “The Gibson,” was on my head (humans call it a peg head on a mandolin). It left a big scar. And I’ll be the first to tell ya that it really hurt! One thing you just gotta keep reminding yourself is that given the wrong circumstances a good man can go bad.

In the end I forgave Bill. I know he just did it in a fit of rage. Some humans are more prone to anger than others. That’s just the way it is. But there’s one thing that was done to me that was way, way, way, worse than what Bill did. It was definitely the worst part of my life.

“Whack, whack, whack!” That’s the sound I heard as I felt the ice cold metal hitting and puncturing my body again and again, breaking me apart. “Stop, stop, please stop!” I screamed. But I could not be heard.

You see, one time Bill was away from his farm house without me. This was in the year 1985 in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. This is mighty strange in itself because Bill was known far and wide for taking me everywhere he went all of the time (except for the outhouse). The door of history was open for this terrible thing to happen, and happen it did. Somebody broke into Bill’s house while nobody was there, got hold of a fireplace poker, and tried to kill me. I was split wide open, and was left to die. 500 pieces of me were scattered all over the floor! “This is the end of my life,” is what I was thinkin’. “I’ll never make music again. I am now firewood!”

Nowadays If you ask the right people, and you read the right books, you may know that there are some theories about who did that horrible deed, and why. There is a rumor floating around that it was a woman who felt Bill had done her wrong. But the truth never came out. Even if you’d have asked Mr. Monroe about it when he was alive, he would have said something like, “Well sir, I just really don’t know who done it. No sir, I don’t know how somebody would get such a crazy idea in their head to do a terrible thing like that. That mandolin never hurt nobody!”

‘Course I know who done it cause I was there. The thing is I’m not revealing nothin’ either ‘cause sometimes it’s best to let certain mysteries be. What I will say about the person who done it is, “The devil never had a better friend.” As I told ya, after I got pokered I thought I was a goner.

But there was this wonderful man by the name of Charlie Derrington who was my savior. He provided my earthly salvation. He worked for the Gibson Company. And as hard as it might be for you to believe, he put me back together again. Lots of humans said it couldn’t be done. Why one person said, “Might as well use the thing for toothpicks”. But Mr. Derrington worked his wizardry and I was as sound (pardon my pun) as before. ‘Course I wasn’t as purty. You wouldn’t be either if somebody busted you up into hundreds of pieces.

Yes sir, after that I made bluegrass music just as good as before my attempted murder. And you know what? Some humans said I sounded better than ever! I won’t presume to be the judge of that, but I do know one thing. My operation turned out a whole heck of a lot better than that Humpdy Dumpty guy who was sittin’ on a wall and fell off.

But that was then and this is now. Thanks to all you readers who have stuck with my ramblin’ about myself during these many words. And right now I know what many of you readers are thinking, “Anthropomorphism.” You know, attributing human characteristics to something that isn’t human. And anybody in his or her right mind would say, “A mandolin can’t talk. It’s just an inanimate object without the ability to think or feel. Everybody knows that it’s just not possible.” Or is it? Haven’t you ever seen the TV show, “The Twilight Zone,” or the movie, “Toy Story?” Anyhow, if you have the time to keep reading, there’s one more thing.

After Bill passed away in 1996 I got an anxiety attack. Most likely it came from the fear of the unknown. What was going to happen to me now? Would I end up on another wall someplace for sale? Fear held me close.

I didn’t have to worry long because I found a home with Bill’s son, James Monroe. “Boy, that was scary,” I thought. “I’m not with Bill anymore, but I am with James. And I’m safe!”

But as many of you know, often it’s the nature of nature that when your life is going just great and you’re feeling that all is right with the world, that’s the time when disaster strikes and jolts you like you’ve been struck by a bolt of lightening. That’s what happened to me when James Monroe did something that I like to think Bill never would have done. James sold me!

Like I told ya before, humans are human, and they do what they do. I don’t fault James for selling me. He didn’t make a whole lot of money or gain fame standing in Bill’s shadow all those years. And I guess he can’t play the mandolin.

Sold! I was sold at the price of over one million dollars! My body isn’t as nice as it used to be. Now I have scars and scratches, and big areas where my skin (you humans call it varnish) is completely rubbed off. “Mighty purty,” is something no one says anymore.

Be that as it may I was still in high demand. I was sold to the highest bidder, who in this case turned out to be a most generous person. Why? Well because after the purchase my new owner donated me to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, where I now reside. And right now some of you readers just might be thinkin’, “Isn’t that wonderful. It’s a marvelous thing. Thousands of people get to see what is considered the most famous mandolin in the world!” But regarding that I have one last thing to tell ya.

My new home is a very nice place. It’s bigger, prettier, and a lot warmer than in that old barber shop a long time ago when the customers and the two barbers would go home at night. And these days famous people come by to see me all the time. Once in a while a lucky human gets to play me for a couple of tunes. ‘Course he or she has to be a famous musician or a famous somebody, and then get permission from the person who is in charge of the museum. I have to admit that my head just swells with pride when I think about my latest selling price of over a million bucks, compared to the $150 that Bill Monroe paid for me way back when. But for me it’s not enough.

You see I want to get out. Now! I want to play more. I want to be free to go to all the different places and bluegrass festivals that are happening all over the world these days; just like when I belonged to Bill. You can think it selfish, but I feel like a slave again. I wish I belonged to Ricky Skaggs. He still plays bluegrass music on the mandolin everywhere. If you’re still reading this, I know that you know who Ricky is. He owns some of my sisters. Why if Mr. Skaggs brought me to his home it would be my family reunion. In fact he owns my twin sister who was born on the same day and year as I was. I say “sister” because Bill Monroe used me to create bluegrass music. And in this old world you all know it takes a female to give birth. You may have a different opinion as to whether you should call a mandolin a “him” or a “her,” and that’s okay with me.

And not only that, regarding Ricky Skaggs, I remember back when one night Bill and I were at a prayer meeting at Ricky’s home. Bill said a prayer over Ricky, and Bill asked God to help Ricky carry on bluegrass music. Ricky is definitely doing that now, but I sure wish I was along to help him out!

Right now I’m a bird in a cage. A fish out of water. A train without a track. A Flatt without a Scruggs. I’ll stop comparing now before I’m accused of torturing the metaphors. You get my drift, don’t ya? I am old. I’m now ninety years old. But I still have “it.”

I need to be on a bluegrass bus out on the highway that’s heading to a bluegrass festival, and then another, and then another. I want to be on stage at the Grand Old Opry again. I want to keep movin’. I want thousands of people to say, “Would you listen to that mandolin!” I’ll stop now and let you readers get back to more important things in your lives. But there are just four last words I’m going to say.

“Somebody please help me!”



THE DAILY GRIST..."Nobody ever goes there anymore because it is always too crowded.”--Yogi Berra

Ten Items or Less
Today's column from Brooks Judd
Friday, February 7, 2014


Item 1: “I never said most of the things I said.” Y. Berra
Only in Turlock: Two men were recently arrested for engaging in a fist fight in a fast food parking lot. When questioned what they were fighting about the men explained that the fight was over what states bordered Oklahoma.

Item 2: “ You can observe a lot by watching.” Y. Berra
“It’s a small world after all.” In 1987 I began my stint as a substitute teacher in Turlock. At the time I was willing to teach in all the schools in hopes of becoming visible and teachers would ask for me. One of the schools I spent a lot of time at, Wakefield, had a friendly staff and even though it was located on the “rough side of town” the teachers and aides made it a friendly place to teach.

After frequent visits to the school I became friendly with many of the teachers and teacher aides. There was one particular aide who was always smiling and would greet me with a warm hello and smile. Being the forgetful type I don’t think I ever committed her name to memory.

A couple of weeks ago in my Weight Watcher class I saw one of the aides who had always been friendly to me sitting in a chair just a few rows away. We nodded and then I blurted out, “Are you still at Wakefield?” She responded with “No, I’m retired” and introduced her husband to me who was sitting at her side. We both smiled and nodded and waited for the meeting to begin.


After the meeting, we began talking about bluegrass music and found out that her son is Gary Vessel of Red Dog Ash. If you are familiar with Red Dog Ash you know that Gary is a luthier, runs a music shop in Modesto, and writes the lyrics for some of the music for the group. I was floored. Only in Turlock.

Item 3: “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” Y. Berra The Super Bowl is over and I don’t know what was more boring the game itself or the commercials. Mr. Bobby Dylan made an appearance hawking American made cars">cars which had the purists crying “Foul” but the unions giving a high five to the legend.
For those who call themselves football fans">fans they are well aware that the real Super Bowl occurred in Seattle two weeks ago when my beloved 49ers came within a set of fingertips of winning the rights to beat Denver in New Jersey.

Item 4: ”You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Y. Berra. Speaking of New Jersey... A word to the wise. You don’t ever want to publicly say you had no knowledge about a certain event. No matter who you are or who you know, someone is going to find out and make you say things like, “Well no one told me specifically but I may have heard about it from someone.” Only in politics....

Item 5:” A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Y Berra. Our neighbors Bob and Lisa took Sheila and me to a crab feed put on by the Portuguese Pentecost Society last Saturday. Tickets were a steep $45 and two thousand (2,000) were sold within five days after going on sale.

We got to the hall where the dinner was being held and got in a somewhat long line and waited 45 minutes before being seated. We dined on crab, french bread,shrimp,mussels,salad and wine. The hall was literally packed like sardines in a tin. Long tables were stretched out in the hall each with about 100 hungry diners per table. There was a smile on every face and the garlic hung like Turlock tule fog over the crowd.

We left a bit after seven and were greeted with a line of about three hundred folks waiting to take our place at the tables. I’ve never seen anything like it. I think I will talk to these folks to get involved in throwing a shindig for the bluegrass community. Nothing says success like success and these folks got it right.

Item 6: “ If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” Y. Berra. I spoke to Jason Winfrey about the first show at the West Side Theater last week. He said the show was a success and that is good news. I am hoping to go to one of the next three shows. I am scheduled for cataract surgery which will hopefully enable me to see and drive a vehicle safely at nighttime. Getting old is not all it is cracked up to be.

Item 7: “When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.” Y. Berra. My sister Maria Nadauld (Above the Bay booking) spent a couple of days at the 48 hour Bakersfield marathon and relayed to me that it too was a success.In fact it was so successful that Mr. Cornish took my sister and her friend out to a rather nice dinner at a restaurant that actually had white linen table cloths. Say what you will about Rick but he doesn’t scrimp when it comes to enjoying and splurging for a fine dinner.

Item 8: “ This Sunday Sheila and I are hosting a birthday party for our grandson and granddaughter, ages five and one. Nothing is sweeter and warmer than watching your grandchildren enjoying their very own birthday party. The sad thing is that the time goes by so swiftly with the grand children. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Until March and good ol’ St. Patrick: Read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat a bar of chocolate, and write your initials in a tree.



THE DAILY GRIST..." I’m playing the changes, you playing that Chinese s#%t.” Big Chief Albert Lambreaux Season 1 finale of Treme”--HBO

Walking in Bb
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, February 6, 2014


What kind of mess have I gotten into this time?

Okay, I’m going to jump into some bass playing jibber jabber this month. You’ve been warned early. This subject doesn’t bode well for reader demographics. How many bass players are out there reading this? I’m talking about real bass players not all the rest of you who think you’re bass players because you pick up a bass at a jam when your “real” bass player doesn’t show up. I’ll bet not enough to keep the ratings up this week.

But what the heck, I’ll let it fly for a bit.

I have reported in this column of my assisted woodshedding endeavors in the winter months. My coach (since I’m not into that whole brevity thing, I’ll just call her the Northern California Bass Player of the Year) has me working on walking patterns in Bb from a jazz study book. For the record, this may or may not be the same Bb you are playing in when the guitar and banjo are capo’d at three. For instance if you sing Montana Cowboy in Bb it doesn’t have any sax or trumpet in it, at least at most of the jams I play in. Also the piano and drums seem to be missing as well but on the other hand two flats is two flats whichever side of the Blue Ridge Mountains you come from.

Why would a bluegrass bass player be working on walking bass lines? Rest assured it is not to start playing jazz club gigs in San Jose or cocktail jazz for Palo Alto garden parties but rather just to improve musically and get better on my instrument. Truth be told, it was my idea to venture here (hear?). I have been wanting to improve my left hand technique and to find a way to add some range up the neck of my Kay bass. The jazz walking lines in Bb and (dare I mention it) Eb give me the exercises to make the off-season improvement I’m after this year.

This is getting to advanced ground for me. Tone and timing, have been, and still are my primary objectives in playing good bass but I am relishing the opportunity my retirement has given me to take on challenges like this.

Every chance I get I really enjoy watching bass players playing in context whether it is bluegrass, western swing, rockabilly or jazz. Recently, I’ve been focused on watching their left hand technique. I‘ve had enough lessons and coaching to know what the correct “classical” approach is but over my playing years I developed my own left hand style that has served me well enough to have a good time playing. My style is a hybrid of the conventional vise grip and a few loose fingers to get more than one finger involved if needed.

I’m currently in contract negotiations with Mel Bay regarding putting together my instruction book on the Vice Grip Bass Method. Mel is going to have to go a ways to beat the offer from Homespun. (If you believe that I’d like to talk to you about some investment opportunities I have for you.)

Okay back to observing bass players. In the bay area in general and in Northern California we have a wealth of bass talent and in watching and listening to them, I noticed mostly they use a left hand technique that is more relaxed and they typically forego my vice grip method. This gives them more versatility (and notes) to make interesting bass lines. This is what I am after this winter. I’m doing okay with it too. I’ve heard it said that you don’t hear the bass player until they make a mistake or they are not there. That is probably true for many, but I’m biased. Hearing a great bass player in any genre is always a treat for me. You should try it.

Now that I have chased away the reading audience, what else is up? I’ll tell you? San Francisco Beer Week is begins tomorrow Feb 7 and runs through Sunday Feb 16. I know that’s more than a week but who’s counting? Also the San Francisco part is very much a misnomer as well. There are over 500 events from Santa Rosa to San Jose and over into the East Bay as well. In fact, I know of a band playing at the Hermitage Brewery in San Jose on Feb 15 for a fundraiser for the Can Do Ms Foundation. The event is Meet The Brewers and features over 20 craft brewers sampling their wares. I believe the bass player in the band is a vice gripper.

Time to go now. I have to walk the dog and then get to my parking lot jam today. There will be some tunes in Bb and Eb, I’m sure.



THE DAILY GRIST..."This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine”--Harry Dixon Loes


Hidden Layers That Shine
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, February 5, 2014


There was ancient form of Korean porcelain (I am told) that had a shine, a depth of color unlike any other. Blues weren’t just blue - they were otherworldly blue, deep and rich. The same with the other colors - they seemed more than painted on, they seemed to spring from a depth even deeper than the thickness of the pottery walls of the vessel.

The secret of these ancient pottery artisan was layers upon layers of glaze. BY the time the topmost layer went, it would seem that the first layers of glaze were completely obliterated; hidden from view by the many layers applied above them. Nonetheless, those inner layers contributed to the effect. The combination of the layers - the ones you could see, and ones you could not seem to - produced a depth of color that was dazzling to the eyes.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Last weekend, I went to a rockabilly show at our local music establishment (Armando’s - a bluegrass friendly venue!), and lo and behold - it was Matt Dudman (of Carolina Special, the Macrae Brothers, etc.) and Jenny Lynn Williams (Rosebud Blue) asJenny Lynn and the Real Gone Daddies! What was the world coming to?

What was happening was, fine musicians were enjoying plying their talents in a musical genre with which they aren’t normally associated. And they did a damn good job. They applied the rockabilly touch to some bluegrass standards to great effect, and trotted out some Rose Maddox Rockabilly stuff too.

Now, we all know of Jenny’s grandfather’s musical history with Rose Maddox, and therein the natural bridge between bluegrass and rockabilly is obvious. Rose made records in both genres, and is the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

So, were Matt and Jenny slumming for a lark, playing rockabilly? Absolutely not! They have had this side act going for a couple of years, according to Matt, and their set list showed careful consideration and affection for the genre - and they were having a lot of fun, to boot! Jenny was at her rockabilly queen best, smiling and winking as she tore through the songs.

So has bluegrass lost a couple of highly respected performers to the bright lights, big skirts and red lipstick of the rockabilly scene? I don’t think so. Matt and Jenny have too much invested over the years in bluegrass. I don’t think they’re done with bluegrass and I know bluegrass isn’t done with them, either.

No, what they were doing is applying some coats of glaze to the pottery of their musical legacy. I doubt playing rockabilly will make their subsequent bluegrass markedly different to their listeners. But playing a variety of musical styles adds depth and color to their overall musical chops. It’s refreshing, and forces your musical “muscles” to react outside the bluegrass idiom.

The result is a more complete musician, and that will benefit both the artist and the audience in the long run. If you get a chance to see Jenny Lynn and the Real Gone Daddies - do it! They’re a lot of fun!



Radio as We Knew It
…Like the old Reno and Smiley song, Long Gone
Today's column from Brian McNeal
Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Many of us can remember the days when driving any long distance without a tape player in the vehicle was sure to present some surprises and also some disappointments.
Surprises, because sometimes you'd actually get to hear something absolutely wonderful, creative and different. You'd get treated to radio programming you would not be able to hear if you stayed home because very few markets overlapped by design.
Disappointments, because when you finally found a station that provided some entertainment that suited your tastes, you soon drove out of range and then the never-ending dial searching would begin anew.

Then along comes a technological knight in shining armor for the radio listener – the invention of satellite radio. Find a program you like and keep it with you for a hundred miles, a thousand miles or yes ... coast to coast, or even beyond our borders. As far as you could drive with no signal loss.

But, maybe, just maybe, we were a little too hasty in claiming our knight had shining armor. Is it what we really wanted? Is it what the bluegrass community needed? Or should this luxury come with a warning tag?

In the beginning we at least had two satellite companies vying for our attention. The good old American way ... honest competition. However, times being what they are, we now have only one company and no market competition. Has that made it better?
One thing that has always been misunderstood about the radio world is the use of charts to position songs according to supposed popularity and that then determines the amount and timing of airplay for each song on the chart.

That system began with popular music and became known as Top 40 Radio. And it works pretty well when one radio station is competing against another, or in many cases against several other stations for listeners within a given market.

But wait, remember we have only one (1) satellite radio company and they aren't competing with anyone. They have a market all of their own. So why do they need to limit their play list by the use of charts?
If you only listen to satellite radio, you may not have any idea of what you're missing! There are thousands of artists and songs floating around that are every bit as good as what gets on the (satellite) air. Some would argue, and possibly rightfully so, that there is actually better music out there that’s not getting played.

As a person from inside the industry, I know that there are professional, award winning artists who very seldom or never have their music played on satellite radio, not to mention those that are still trying to make a name for themselves but who have music equal in quality and every other respect to the music that does get on the charts.

The problems with charts and the use of them to determine airplay are multiple, and we won't go into them all here, but the concept of using charts to determine airplay is outdated. It was developed in a different time and for different reasons. It was developed when the average person listened to the radio in 15 minute blocks. How can that concept ever work for a world where the satellite programming is listened to in an office eight hours a day or on an all day drive? The station may be playing what they think are the most popular songs, but do you really want to hear them again and again, day after day? Do you ever wonder what songs are out there that you don't get to hear – especially when you've heard the same song for the third time in the same day or the same song at the exact same time two or more days in a row?

Satellite radio, as far as bluegrass is concerned, is missing the golden opportunity to spread our music to the masses. What they're doing is presenting bluegrass as if it were already the most popular genre in the world and every listener knows all there is to know about it. But we know that is not the case.

There are new listeners to our music every day. Some will be hooked forever and some will be discouraged from ever sampling it again. Why? Because we all have a personal idea of what is and what isn't good music. What does or doesn't excite us musically is as different from one person to the next as the number and position of freckles on our faces. So when a new listener stumbles into the bluegrass channel and hears something not to their liking it’s channel change time for sure! Now what happens if that same person comes back in a day or so and hears the same song because of the limitations of too few songs on the play list? Forever in that person's mind is the image that bluegrass is something to be avoided because their limited exposure had a negative impact.

Surprises and disappointments in satellite radio come to the regular listener too. Depending upon your own personal preferences, they may be one way for you and exactly opposite for another.

To me, only one bluegrass channel is a big disappointment. So why do we say thank God for Satellite radio in the bluegrass community? Well, it's a start, but it can be a lot more if we as a community don't get complacent and think that it is all it's ever going to be. Just like anything else that is new and innovative, it's use dictates it's benefit or it's detriment to the world.

We in the bluegrass community have an opportunity that none of our founding fathers or bluegrass pioneers had in the beginning. We can put our music and all of it's variants literally into the ears of millions with satellite radio. But it will take all of us in the community to recognize, first, it's potential, and then, second, the dangers of letting it continue with no intervention.

Thinking of satellite radio as just another private industry, another cog in the machine, is our first mistake. We need to think of this as a tool – a spaceship in the middle ages, a microwave oven to a caveman.

A really good way to help our problem would be to find a way to add a second bluegrass channel to the lineup. What will it take? A Rockefeller to finance it, or just a visionary to see it's potential?

A second good way to help that scenario would be to locate that channel outside of the Nashville headquarters. A West Coast based bluegrass channel in Los Angeles would open the doors to countless opportunities, not only in the programming side, but in the sales side of the business as well. What will it take to make that happen?

Whatever it takes, it better not take too long. The day is coming when we'll be able to say “we caught you napping, Satellite Radio”. Internet Streaming Radio in vehicles is already here. Almost four years ago we wrote about Toyota integrating Internet Radio Apps into their car radios. And, although just this past summer, satellite radio joined the in-vehicle streaming crowd with their own app, it's still a bit like Rip Van Winkle waking up to find a long beard where none had been before.

With the choices consumers will now have in their vehicles for music listening matching exactly what they have in the home or office, satellite radio is going to find a competition like never before. That's usually the way it goes with things like this. It's never another giant that comes in to take down the ruling giant, but a whole lot of little people nipping away one little piece here and another there and pretty soon the giant isn't so big.

Hooked
Today’s guest column from Peter Langston
Monday, February 3, 2014


(Editor’s Note—You would normally be reading Mark Varner’s column this first Monday of the month but the boy’s off gallivanting in celebration of what he claims is his 103rd birthday. (We’re figuring he means in “dog years”.) HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. EDITOR.) Filling in for Mark is Peter Langston, who as co-director of the CBA Music Camp, has become an instant member of the CBA family.)


My Hooked on Bluegrass story starts with what I think of as my IWTDT! moment and passes through two Seegers to Bill Monroe owing me $100.

Every musician I've talked to, and I've talked to many, remembers a moment when hearing somebody play music inspired an overwhelming feeling of "I want to do that!" My IWTDT! moment came in 1958 when I heard the record of the Weavers 1955 Carnegie Hall Christmas concert with Pete Seeger playing 5-string banjo. That was the tip of the hook for me.

I fell in love with traditional folk music and I went looking for more examples. I found the Folkways LP "Mountain Music Bluegrass Style" compiled by Mike Seeger and I played it to death, sinking the hook deeper.

Growing up in New York's Greenwich Village, I was exposed to a growing bluegrass music scene there in the early 60s, so I could go watch young bluegrass players in coffeehouses and in Washington Square park on Sundays.

I got a guitar and learned to play that. Then I got a little book called "How to play the 5-string Banjo" by Pete Seeger. I didn't have a banjo, so I took the 6th string (low E) off my guitar and put the 1st string (high E) where the 6th string was, so I could tune it like a 5-string and I learned to play banjo by slowing down the Monroe & Flatt & Scruggs records to 16 2/3 rpm and teasing apart Earl's dizzying technique.

About that time Ralph Rinzler brought Doc Watson and family and friends up to NYC for the first time. I went to the concert they gave and then to the workshop held the next day, where I met Doc. Each of these experiences sunk the traditional music hook deeper!

The next summer I lucked into a n after-gig jam with Bill Keith, Clarence White, and the Kentucky Colonels (more hook), and then the following year at college in Portland, Oregon, we managed to get Doc Watson, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Bill Monroe's band to play at my college.

Doc stayed at my house for a w eek while he played a coffeehouse gig and I got to play a song with him at the end of e ach set! More hook fora19-year-old!

After the Bill Monroe concert (Bill Monroe, Peter Rowan, Gene Lowinger, Lamar Grier, James Monroe) I lent him $100 to get his bus fixed(the bus had broken down just as they arrived and the gig had paid with ac heck).

Since then I've been playing bluegrass and doing everything I can to encourage others to get hooked, too!

-Peter


HREF="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww137Y37OnA"target=0> clicking here.



THE DAILY GRIST..."I believe that vinyl will outlast CDs.”--Conor Oberst

What Price is History?
Today's column from Marcos Alvira
Sunday, February 2, 2014


Perhaps many of you have heard: my LP collection was recently destroyed by water from a leaky pipe. With quiet insidiousness, water had collected in my back closet. where I stored my record albums. This disaster was discovered as I was preparing for a CBA Radio Show that was to feature an eclectic mix of vintage country and assorted Americana. The worse-off album covers were clumps of gray mush. Others stuck together, the covers peeling like a Bandaid ripping off old scabs yet others were warped and coated with film of fetid mildew. My collection had once consisted of over four hundred vinyl discs, but over recent years, at my wife’s insistence, the collection had been simplified to 180 of the essentials: Davy Crockett, Jean Pierre Rampal, Buck Owens, Muleskinner, The Singing Nun, Mercedes Sosa, Turkish Village Music, Bulgarian Choirs, Cantos de Navidad, etc..

Truth be known, whereas those LP’s had once occupied a proud place in my living room, they were now in the back closet for want of use. There was a time that each of those LP’s had been an intimate friend. All the casual acquaintances had long ago seen the door— that is, the garage door at a yard sale. But for those remaining, there was a history, a relationship—from the initial moment of physical attraction when their interesting cover art drew my attention from among the thousands sitting there in the racks at Tower Records; or when I first broke that plastic seal with the tip of my pocket knife, flared the card board and delicately extracted the pristine disc in its crisp jacket to mature intimacy; or when I could pick up the tone arm and lay it softly and accurately on any groove I chose to hear.

The cover art and liner notes were as much a part of the musical experience as the LP itself. While the Sgt. Pepper album set new standards for album art, Rodger Dean had to be the king album art artists. His paintings were two dimensional universes. His most famous work can be seen on many Yes albums. Elegant islands floating in ethereal worlds, vintage rocket ships, or steamy jungle scenes,—his art popped! In fact, I was turned on to great music by African group Osibisa and progressive rocker Greenslade just so I could own a new piece of Dean art. Sitting back in my black bean bag chair with a new record, enormous headphones arcing over my gourd, I poured over insightful liner notes, preparing to duel my friends with arcane musical knowledge. After time and enough albums, the names of obscure studio musicians became as common place to me as the stars they backed.

While thumbing through the water logged collection, I discovered that a German opera had survived the watery onslaught. Once back in 1972 when I was in high school, I copied some lyrics from this album’s liner notes into the margins of a paper I was writing. I was always trying to catch my teacher off guard; he always seemed to be a step ahead of my compulsive shenanigans. To my amazement, in a pre-home computer/Internet era, the paper was later returned with a perfect English translation of the lyrics and a brief commentary on the opera piece itself. My teacher, in his late thirties, was worldly and, as I learned later, spoke fluent Russian as well as German. I always suspected there was more to his story than he admitted to in class.

My record collection has traveled with me since the sixties and has weathered many a storm, but this flood had washed away a lot of memories as sure as the great Flood washed away life on Earth. At least Noah was able to save two of every kind of beast. Although most the records themselves are salvageable, the collection as I had known it for fifty years is lost. There seems to be little prospect of starting over. There is too little joy in those minuscule CD’s with their tiny 9 pt. liner notes. I half heartedly inquired about compensation for the collection from my home owners insurance">insurance company. Oddly, I wasn’t angered when they told me the collection was not covered since the damage was not the result of a sudden cataclysmic event, but the consequence of a slow, ongoing, undetected leak. Actually, the thought that there could be a price or compensation for the loss of such a significant piece of personal history seemed…well, just absurd. Listen to the CBA Radio Show, and over the coming months you’ll get a chance to share some of that history as I spin bits of my orphaned, coverless LP’s.



THE DAILY GRIST..."You've gone so far away, my darling…Each time I think of you I cry…I press your picture to my bosom…Then I feel that you're close by.”—Close By, written by Who Knows

Dailey and Vincent
Today's column from Marty Varner
Saturday, February 1, 2014


Hello my article readers! The recent news in music and more specifically in bluegrass, was the Grammy’s. Which means the rid of tension of who will win the awards. (Even thought the Grammy system is pathetically flawed where the word “best” actually means “most exposure”, but that is not the point of this article.) For best bluegrass album, the winner was The Del McCoury Band with their album Streets of Baltimore. While this a terrific album, the album that spoke to me the most and the album I believe should have won was the new Dailey & Vincent album, Brothers of the Highway. This recent album that only can support the groups already great reputation is incredibly diverse and I was pleasantly surprised by the huge jump that band made in instrumentalists.

This theory is supported by the first track called “steel">Steel Drivin’ Man” which starts the album out guns a blazing. The ring of the banjo gives the tone the album needs to intro with, but the song in general also shows that while this is the same Dailey & Vincent that likes to have fun, they have definitely taken it up a notch in their arrangements and instrumental features. What makes the first track my favorite song on the album as well is the incredibly unique chord progression that is used on the chorus. For anybody who understands this it goes six minor, 2major, 3(with a 7) and then it goes to the 5 to resolve from the 2. When I first heard that funny chord in there, my mind was blown. I heard the chorus again and again in complete awe of what they did. The result is a new hook very few have heard before which is even more rare and appreciated in a genre like bluegrass where the hook is the most important part, and there are only so many hooks that can be put on the stereotypical bluegrass chord progressions.

Speaking of stereotypical chord progressions the old bluegrass classic “Close By” is the next song on the album. What makes this version unique from others is the peppier pace that this one is at. Of course it is not as fast as their first track, but I cannot recall hearing this song as fast as they have made it. Even though it is not similar to the Monroe version in that aspect they bring a classic Monroe move by having twin fiddles take the solos. The fiddles are also taking most of the fills throughout the tone so that the listener knows that Monroe is the inspiration of what Dailey & Vincent are doing on this song.

Another one of the best songs on the album, is their version of “When I Stop Dreaming”. Without even hearing the song, if one has any knowledge of Dailey & Vincent it is obvious that the tenor on this song from Vincent is gonna totally insane, and it does not disappoint. The song kicks off with an a capella turnaround of “When I stop dreaming that’s when I’ll stop loving you.” The tight harmonies that Dailey & Vincent get on these opening notes only gets better and better as the song goes on. I am dead certain that the reason why this song is on the album is because Vincent sings the tenor too well and nobody in the band wanted to waste the opportunity to have a song with top notch harmonies like theirs are.

Another song I really enjoyed on the album “Big River” which carries that peppy 3/4 tempo that I personally enjoy. The verse holds on the 1 and then goes to a quick 5, but the listener wants and predicts there to more. The song writer did a terrific job of falsely telegraphing the next chord that then never comes. These techniques are what separate professional song writers from the other along with incredible arrangements like there is in this song. When the last chorus comes the listener is predicting a repetition of the last couple, but that is not what happens. A bass vocalist comes in and sings the first line until the other parts stack on top which leads to a complete singing of the chorus in 4 part harmony. These types of tricks are the reason Dailey & Vincent are one of the biggest bands in bluegrass and specifically thought of as one of, if not the best vocal band in bluegrass today.



THE DAILY GRIST..."To my old brown earth and to my old blue sky, I’ll now give these last few molecules of ‘I’.” – Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger: Living Outside the Box
Today's column James Reams
Friday, January 31, 2014


(Editor’s Note—James’ regular Welcome column appears the third Thursday of each month. This morning we’re running a special piece from him, a tribute recently posted at bluegrasstoday.com, because we wanted to make certain our CBA readership had a chance to read it. James is a fine writer, and it’s clear, at least to us, that his work becomes even more moving when he’s inspired by greatness, in this case Pete’s.)


When I arrived in New York City, I had the good fortune to play at the Greenwich Folk Festival in Greenwich Village, then considered to be the heart of the folk music scene. And one of the biggest hearts belonged to Pete Seeger. Backstage, he was always warm, welcoming, and nurturing — setting an example that I still try to follow today. As part of a roots music concert tour, we rode in the van together to the shows and I loved listening to him talk (not surprisingly, he was a great storyteller!).

We made our own stories, too. One time we were at this lodge in upper state NY for a convention of the People’s Music Network and it just so happened that Pete didn’t have an instrument with him. All the musicians were doing a round robin, picking for a bit and then sitting down to let the next musician play. When it came around to Pete, he stood up on his chair and told a little story about what he was going to do and then he started hamboning while the crowd roared it’s approval. He brought music with him wherever he went. I had such an admiration for him as a performer… even without an instrument he could mesmerize a room full of musicians.

I had been working on collecting interviews for the documentary, Making Music with the Pioneers of Bluegrass, when I got a call from the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, KY, asking if I would do an interview with Pete Seeger for their Oral History Project. Seems that back in the ’70s, Pete had donated his banjo to support a fundraising effort for the folk music community. This was the banjo that he had played for more than 15 years at protest rallies in the 60s and it featured his slogan “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” on the head. The IBMM had just acquired this banjo from a private individual to display at the museum and they wanted folks to be able to connect with the instrument through a recorded interview with this living legend. Of course I jumped at the chance and headed off to Beacon, NY to meet with Pete, now 87 years old. Now, the Clearwater Meeting House where we held the interview had this wood-burning fireplace. When I arrived with the crew, we found Pete outside splitting logs for the fireplace so we could be warm during the meeting. That was classic Pete, always thinking of others first.

I remember when the interview was over he shook our hands, tossed his ax and the remaining firewood in the bed of his beat up old pickup truck and then proceeded to back right into the front of my van before taking off like a shot. The crew and I just looked at each other in shock and then busted out laughing. It was a fitting end to the whole meeting. I’m proud to say that I still have that dent in my front bumper — probably should get a “Pete Seeger was here” sign painted over it!

Pete is still a controversial figure in bluegrass music circles. Most bluegrassers contend that Pete was not a bluegrass musician. But take a look at what he has done for our genre. His book on 5-String Banjo Instruction was the one of the seminal books for beginning banjo pickers and acknowledges bluegrass along with other styles. He brought international attention to bluegrass music when he helped produce the “Folksong ‘59” show with Alan Lomax at Carnegie Hall which featured relatively unknown bluegrass musicians Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys (including my long time friend and fellow recording artist, Walter Hensley). His TV show Rainbow Quest ran on public television from 1965-66 and brought guests like The Stanley Brothers, Greenbriar Boys, Doc Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, Cousin Emmy to the attention of the viewers all over the east coast (12 episodes of these rare performances are available on DVD now).

To paraphrase one of his famous quotes, “We’re all different, but we’re all singing together. It gives you hope.” When we start naming things, we put them in little boxes. I just don’t think music should be put in a box. Because he embraced American culture and the arts, Pete Seeger is bigger than any one musical genre. His influence is still being felt by generations of banjo pickers across the whole musical spectrum. Though he’s gone physically from this world, Pete will always live on…outside the box.


THE DAILY GRIST..."This banjo surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”—Was it Pete or was it Woody? Or does it matter?

You don’t miss your water
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Thursday, January 30, 2014


Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where the favorite past time is taking turns asking Siri questions on the new IPhone V my wife bought me for my birthday. “Siri, is it raining outside?” “No, I don’t believe it is.” “Better check again.” “Alright, give me a moment to think about that…No, I don’t believe it is raining outside.”

Oh, I almost forgot; not everyone on the planet knows what/who Siri is. Here’s a quick explanation that Siri helped me find when I asked her what she is. (Do you suppose she was a little biased?)

”Siri /'s?ri/ is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator which works as an application for Apple Inc.'s iOS. The application uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web services. Apple claims that the software">software adapts to the user's individual preferences over time and personalizes results. The name Siri is Norwegian, meaning "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", and comes from the intended name for the original developer's first child.”—Wikipedia

It takes less and less to keep Lynn and I amused anymore. Part of me yearns for the day when all we’ll need to do is hang a plastic fruit mobile over our bed. All in due time.

But, of course and thankfully, Little-Miss-Know-it-All is dead wrong. It’s raining alright, and even the dogs">dogs seem to get that the dull roar of water pounding on the metal roof of our house is a big deal…something to get excited about, if only vicariously.

So Pete Seeger died this week and I was surprised by my surprise. Even though he was ninety-four I just never saw it coming. Hell, he could have been a hundred and fourteen and I think I’d have been shocked when I logged onto my Mac at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning and was rudely informed of Pete’s death. Until this week I don’t think I ever really consciously thought about it, but, for me, Pete Seeger was more or less a permanent fixture in my life…always had been there and always would be there. But that’s not how it works, is it.

Monday afternoon Lynn and I drove to Hurst Ranch to buy four bales of grass hay for the llamas and when we returned home I drove the truck out to their feed shed to unload. Just as I was about to slide out of the cab a 1996 interview that Terry Gross did with Pete on NPR’s Fresh Air came on the radio. I ended up sitting there for the entire conversation between the two. Even though he was in his mid-seventies twenty years ago, the folk singer…folk hero, really…spoke with the vitality and excitement and laser focus">focus of a young man who, just having discovered the secret of, well, everything, just couldn’t wait to share it. Pete described the time he spent tramping around the country with Woody Guthrie, their shared work in the American labor movement, the trick his older friend taught him for catching a moving freight car, (Getting on was easy, he said, getting off, that was another thing altogether.

My dad hated Pete Seeger. Just hearing his name made my pop’s blood boil. ‘You know,’ he was fond of saying, ‘he was a commie rat, don’t you. Admitted he belonged to the party back in the ‘30’s. I read he and Joe Stalin were pals. PALS!’ Nothing I could say changed his opinion or even softened it.

Ironically, but I guess not surprisingly, my father, a country boy from the plains of Nebraska, loved the TYPE of music Pete wrote and played and sang. And he especially loved hearing me play my guitar and sing folks songs, new and old. In 1983, just a few months before my dad dies unexpectedly from a massive heart attack, my wife and I drove up to Lake County for a visit. As always I brought my guitar, but this time I also brought some new songs to perform for my dad...If I Had a Hammer, Where Have All the flowers">Flowers Gone, We Shall Overcome, Waist Deep in Big Muddy, Kisses Sweeter than Wine, Turn! Turn! Turn!.
I knew Bebe would love them all, and my plan was to wait till he’d heard the tunes and then tell him that each and every one was written by “Joe’s good buddy.” Well, he did love all of Pete Seeger’s songs, and a few of them even caused him to tear up. But when the time came to snap the trap, I remained silent. I guess having sung so many of my hero’s songs, one after the other, took me, at least briefly, to that special place to which Pete was always and forever trying to lead us.

And Kip Martin also died this week, too. Here’s a bit of an awfully good piece run by bluegrasstoday.com yesterday…

Kip Martin, bass player, founder of the DC Bluegrass Union, songwriter, journalist and friend, died earlier this morning (1/29/14) after a lengthy illness. He passed peacefully around 11:00 a.m. (CST) surrounded by family. A benefit concert held last weekend in Maryland had raised roughly $8,000 towards his remaining medical expenses, and gave his DC area friends a chance to say their farewell in song. Kip’s biggest gig was with Jimmy Martin, whom he called a “cranky old genius.” That was Kip, honest to a fault. But the truth is, Kip played with many talented folks over the years and considered many of them hereoes: Darren Beachley, Mike Auldridge, Wayne Taylor, Norman Wright, Kevin Church, John Miller and many more. During a 2005 tour, he found himself on stage with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It was, he recalled, one of those “pinch-me moments.”

I remember meeting Kip back in 1996 through a back-and-forth correspondence that lasted a couple days and started out on pretty shaky ground. On the Bluegrass-L listserv he’d made what some of us considered a derisive remark about the sorry state of bluegrass music “out West.” Naturally I called him on it, though, thankfully, I’d been smart enough to do it off line. It didn’t take long to figure out that Kip was a “stirrer”, a sort of bluegrass provocateur, expert at instigating serious discussion about the great love of his life, bluegrass music. It was also in that year that Skip sent me his “Hooked on Bluegrass’ story. It’s a fairly short one, so I’ll share it with you…

“I was introduced to Bluegrass as a pre-teen by some of my Dad's students (he was a Philosophy professor) and remember the Flatt and Scruggs 'Live at Carnegie Hall' album being played quite a bit in my small-town home in Western PA. I gravitated towards Rock music as a teenager, but somehow still managed to stumble upon John Hartford, the Dillards, Earl Scruggs Revue, Old and In the Way, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Later, I served on my college's Concert Committee and found myself tasked with showing John Hartford around town and later took him around to various after-concert parties. I already loved his music, but was most impressed with him as a person--I believe I became a True Believer that day. This past summer, 25+ years later, I found myself playing bass with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I've been blessed to have worked with several bluegrass 'stars' over the years, but when I looked across the stage that night with the 'Nitties', I realized my dreams had come true. play and record bluegrass several times per week, and still work very hard at honing my craft. And let the record show that the hair on the back of my neck still stands on end when that old, grey, West Coast bluegrass band launches into 'Midnight Moonlight'. Thanks!”

So it’s been a hard week and I’ll be glad when it’s over. The rain’s suddenly stopped beating on the metal roof of our house. How quickly I’d gotten used to it and forgot it was there until the tapping stopped. Not so with Pete, or Kip for that matter.

Tis the Season (soon)
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Well, it’s almost here. I’m speaking of baseball season, of course. PItchers and catchers report to camp next month. “Hey!”, you may yell. “Where’s the bluegrass connection here?”

Baseball and bluegrass are inextricably linked. First of all, it’s well known that Bill Monroe was a huge baseball fan, and often challenged baseball teams in towns to games against his team - his band. I wouldn’t be surprised if an interview for prospective Bluegrass Boys contained a few questions about baseball prowess…

There’s another important link between bluegrass and baseball: arguing. fans">Fans of both pastimes enjoy hours of spirited arguing about who was the best at one thing or another. And I think the bluegrass and baseball arguments can be a noble intellectual endeavor.

Some arguments are just fact-finding missions. A quick check of the internet will reveal who played bass on the original version of “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’”, or who led theNational League in home runs in the year 1939. No a REAL argument is a lively intellectual give and take over something that can never be settled definitively. The goal of a really good argument is to change someone’s mind, or failing that, sharpen your own point of view.

Sadly, some folks lack good arguing skills. If an argument makes you mad, or devolves into endless exchanges of “Oh yeah?”, then the participants are missing some sparring chops. Here are a couple of tips for fun arguing that won’t create a feud, or leave you red faced and out of breath.

Don’t Make it Personal
Reasonable people can, when presented with the exact same evidence, come to different, reasonable conclusions. Failure to sway your arguing opponent is not proof of a thick skull or a shallow gene pool. Everyone’s entitled their opinion.

Be Willing to Listen
We all want to persuade, and we want to impress with our depth of thought and our knowledge. But it takes two to tango, so you can’t argue all alone. Let others present their opinions and listen and consider their points of view. Even if they don’t convince you, exposure to varying points of view is enriching, or at the very least, interesting.

Agree to Disagree
Sometimes, after some back and forth, minds are changed. When it comes to bluegrass or baseball, that doesn’t happen all that often. The joys of both are so visceral and personal, when we decide what we like best, we just can’t change our minds. Whether it’s Monroe vs, Stanley, or Buster Posey’s swing vs. Will Clark’s swing, the heart wants what it wants. When you’ve pleaded your case thoroughly and affably, and you’ve heard everyone else’s point of view, it’s time to put it to bed.

Leave Politics Out of It
Don't go there. Just don't.

Often, you’re left with the impression that your friends have heads full of wet hay, but they probably think the same thing about you. It’s fun to defend the things you’re passionate about, and jawing over a cool beverage on a nice day is one of the life’s little pleasures.. Let’s see, first pitchers and catchers report, then spring training, then the Sonoma Bluegrass Festival, the baseball season, then Father’s Day...oh yeah - it’s gonna be a great season alright!




How I Got Hooked
Today's guest column from Robin Fischer
Tuesday, January 28, 2014


(Editor's Note--For over ten years now the CBA has solicited stories from its members and bluegrass and old-time luminaries from around the country about the circumstances which led them into the love affair with this music of ours. In the past few years, Hooked on Bluegrass submittals have slowed to a dribble; but during that same period an entire new crop of pickers and fans">fans have joined our ranks. Robin Fischer is one such picker and we launch our effort to gather new stories from new folks with her tale.)


It’s important to note I got hooked on bluegrass after falling in love with playing the fiddle.

I grew up in Berkeley, CA, neither of my parents were musicians but my dad played a lot of Bob Wills, Commander Cody, David Grisman, and Grateful Dead on the stereo. Nothing traditional, and none of it really sunk in, except maybe on a subconscious level. I tried out every instrument I could, and was in music lessons for one thing or another throughout school, but nothing I tried made since to me or inspired me to actually practice.

In high school I managed to immerse myself pretty completely in the local punk scene, but was really interested in music that leaned towards the rootsy direction. I remember a raggedy old time band playing at one show or another and getting really excited about them. The summer before senior year my grandfather died, which lead to cleaning out the attic, which led to finding two fiddles just waiting for someone to play them. My dad had the better one fixed up for my birthday and I started taking lessons.

I immediately fell in love with the fiddle, and it began to take over life pretty quickly. I couldn’t understand why people said it was a hard instrument- it felt like the easiest instrument I had ever played! Using a bow instead of a pick, or drumsticks, or piano keys, felt so natural and right, and putting in practice was not a struggle, it was exciting!

I took to old-time stuff first, and then bluegrass too, pretty different than what I was used to. Eventually my tastes (and ear) evolved and almost everything I listed to had a fiddle in it, other stuff just wasn’t interesting. I started going to jams around the East Bay, first with just other fiddle students, then at the 5th String music store, then McGraths (I was not 21 yet, and terrified of getting kicked out of the bar), and then getting exposed to the CA festival picking scene. If you’re reading this you probably know how it goes from there.

Now I teach fiddle lessons at the studio of my long term mentor Chad Manning (who gave me my very first lesson, and I still haven't stopped studying with), and his wife Catherine. I feel extremely lucky to be so completely immersed in playing traditional music in my daily life, and that I get to spread the gospel of the fiddle, and bluegrass, and old-time, to others too.




THE DAILY GRIST..."San Diego’s average temperature is 73 degrees. And those people down there wonder why most of the world resents them.”—Most of the world

And Now Introducing…San Diego Bluegrass Society
Today's column from Yvonne Tatar
Monday, January 27, 2014


I’m grateful for this opportunity to write this monthly column. It’s a great opportunity for me to acquaint others with some of the bluegrass happenings down here in the southern end of the state where I live. There is much bluegrass going on here, too much to cover in one column, so in the next few columns I will present some Southern California bluegrass organizations. Today’s column introduces the San Diego Bluegrass Society – an organization I am very familiar with.

SDBS did business as the San Diego Bluegrass Club for many years, and was incorporated as San Diego Bluegrass Society in 1998 as a 501c3. I have been on the board of directors for 15+ years and I am proud of the variety of activities we offer to our local members. First off, we are an active club! We sponsor jams, featured band nights, slow jam instruction nights, concerts and a variety of other activities for bluegrass music fans">fans in the area. We try to support touring bands as well. Currently we are sponsoring Nu-Blu and Special Consensus in January and James King in February.

Every second Tuesday SDBS sponsors a local jam session, open mic & pick-up bands at the Fuddruckers in Grossmont Center in La Mesa. Open mic and pick-up bands play from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, and this evening also features a popular informal jamming session, outside on the patio.

Our third Tuesday event is held at the former New Expression Music in San Diego. This gathering is an hour and a half structured slow jam learning session led by music teacher Janet Beazley (7:30 to 9:00 pm). The fee is $5 per session for SDBS members and $10 for non-members.

On the fourth Tuesdays, we feature a top local or regional band in concert for one hour, at The Boll Weevil Restaurant in Clairemont Mesa area. The schedule for fourth Tuesday is open mic & pickup bands from 6:30 to 8:00 pm; featured band from 8:00-9:00pm. Informal jamming throughout the evening also takes place outside.

We are also able to offer our 4th Tuesday featured bands an appearance on Wayne Rice’s Bluegrass Special on KSON radio at 97.3AM on the Sunday night prior to their show. This gives the bands great exposure, promotes our event, and is a big warm fuzzy for the band from this radio show experience. Wayne’s bluegrass show is nationally recognized and has been on the air 35+ years. (I could write an entire column on Wayne and his show, but that’s for another column).

Other SDBS activities include our annual fundraising concert at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in November, Bluegrass Day at the Del Mar Fair in June, our ongoing San Diego Library Concert Series, our Lending Library of instruments and learning materials, and our regional bluegrass outreach that brings bluegrass to San Diego free of charge seniors and children courtesy of Emma’s Gut Bucket Band.

We cosponsor many other bluegrass-related events to support local promoters that bring bluegrass to San Diego. This includes the Santee Wine & Bluegrass Festival, concerts at Acoustic Music San Diego, the Belly Up, and the "Bluegrass & Beyond" concerts at the Del Mar Powerhouse.

SDBS also partners with North County Bluegrass & Folk Club to produce Summergrass San Diego, our premier bluegrass festival that happens annually each August in Vista, CA at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. (More on Summergrass in a future column.) Summergrass is a jewel in the SDBS crown of activities!

Our busy schedule is a lot of work but a lot of fun too! Like I said, the San Diego Bluegrass Society is a very active organization with a big community of supporters. Lots of good times and good pickin’ going on down here. Check the SDBS website to see the latest news posted there at ww.sandiegobluegrass.org. SDBS is working hard at keeping bluegrass alive in the southland. So, come on down to San Diego and experience our bluegrass scene!


THE DAILY GRIST…"I promised myself before going to the Great 48 that I would not stay up until 3:00 each morning; it takes longer to recover at my age. I found the key to keeping this promise is to start heading to my room around midnight so that as I worked my way back from jam to jam, I would make it to bed by 2:30 AM.”—Today’s Welcome columnist, a wise woman

The Jam
Today's column from Jeanie Ramos
Sunday, January 26, 2014


When musicians hear the word “jam,” it’s not fruit preserves or traffic gridlock that comes to mind. When two or more are gathered together and making music, we call it a “jam.” We all know that a bluegrass jam is more fun if you have a full complement of instruments; a guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, bass, dobro and vocalists. If you are at a gathering where Tina Louise Barr (autoharpist extraordinaire) and David Naiditch (a master of the harmonica) are present, then you have a real bonus. Jams are more fun still if the musicians play fairly well and the vocalists are well prepared to sing their leads or provide harmonies.

Now, multiply the above by dozens of groups all gathered in one hotel">hotel for three days (or more) and you have the 48 Hour Jam in Bakersfield. It is one of my favorite events of the year and each year I attend, I find myself saying, “That was the best one yet!”

I attend most CBA events as a “consumer” and not a volunteer but I have a pretty good idea of what goes on behind the scenes to pull off an event of this magnitude. It’s like putting together a band; it takes a group of people with varied gifts and talents, working together despite their differences but having a common goal in mind. When we sit and listen to a good band, (such as Special Consensus), we are not aware of all the practice sessions, trials, tribulations and sacrifices it takes to put on an entertaining performance for an appreciative audience. The same is true for putting on the Great 48, there is a lot of work and sacrifice on the part of many people to bring about an event where we can all go home and say, “I can’t wait ‘til next year.” I tip my “Jimmie Rodgers Train Engineer Cap” to Larry Phegley and his team of volunteers. Thanks.

When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, there was a nice jam already underway in the hotel">hotel lobby. My friends, Mikki, Lucy, Dave Rietz, Larry Phegley, Brian Whitt and others were setting the stage for the rest of the week-end! A warm cookie is a nice welcome but some great bluegrass music is even better. From that moment on, there was a steady stream of pickers and grinners filling the hotel">hotel lobby. At that point, everyone is a grinner, and you could feel the excitement in the air, actually you could see it in the air. That’s all we’ll say about the air.

Within the first hour of arriving, we had stowed our belongings in our room, ate the warm cookie and I was sitting in a jam with friends. Things just got better as each hour passed. On Thursday evening, I broke away from the jamming to attend the Band Showcase. Many of my friends were competing in different bands and only one band could win so I was pulling for all of them. Congratulations, Grasskickers.

On Friday night we went to the Special Consensus performance. All I can say is, “Wow!” What a talented group of guys, high energy, great musicianship, wonderful vocal harmonies. Dynamic! Let’s not forget to mention The Roustabouts who opened for Special Consensus. I love this Bakersfield band and what a wonderful cause, the fight against Childhood Lymphoma and Leukemia.

On Saturday night, I was invited to attend the “Chick Jam;” an all girls jam held in one of the suites. What a beautiful time, fine harmonies and great pickin’ and pluckin’ in this hen party. It was funny when guys would come in and begin to play and realize that they were in a room with just women. It took some of them longer than others to notice. It never fails, when women get together, the subject of hot flashes comes up. One of my friends was furiously fanning herself and said, “Excuse me, but I think my inner child is playing with matches!”

I hope that many of you were able to attend a workshop on Saturday. Many thanks to a gifted group of teachers who were willing to give up a couple hours to share their expertise with others! I attended the bass workshop. It was very basic and informal which is just what I needed at this point and I found it quite helpful. I know you all are getting tired of reading about my bass playing, so sorry…I can’t help myself. It is so much fun and addicting.

I promised myself before going to the Great 48 that I would not stay up until 3:00 each morning; it takes longer to recover at my age. I found the key to keeping this promise is to start heading to my room around midnight so that as I worked my way back from jam to jam, I would make it to bed by 2:30 AM. I’m gaining on it. It was especially difficult to get up on Sunday morning to make it to the Bluegrass Church/Gospel Jam, but it was worthwhile. There were probably fifty people in attendance and about twenty of them were in the jam circle. It was a great way to leave the orbit of an event that was “out of this world” and prepare myself for reentry into the real world. I am blessed and grateful.


THE DAILY GRIST…"It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”--Jerry Seinfeld

How Bright Do You Want Your World To Be?
Today's column from Brian McNeal
Saturday, January 25, 2014


The CBA (California Bluegrass Association) is doing a tremendous job at making sure you stay “in the know” and current on the topics of the day in the bluegrass world.

Right on the CBA landing page you'll see our Prescription Bluegrass News Ticker scrolling away day after day with the headlines along with a link to click if you should want to read the full story on anything that scrolls by. You'll also find news items from several other sources that pop up in that spot on a rotation basis. This means that if you don't see our news ticker right away, just try refreshing your browser a few times.

But how you get your news is not as important as the fact that you do get it. If you read any bluegrass news source on a daily basis you're probably in the minority … or so it seems to me. Everywhere I go, I ask people what they think about something that is a current news topic. Most of the time, the reply back is something like, “I didn't know! …What happened? …Where did you hear that? …”and on and on. The point is that whomever I happen to be speaking with is in the dark about what is happening within the bluegrass world and I find that a hard concept to understand.
We live in a plethora of input from sources in every nook and cranny of our world. We can't drive down a street without being informed of something. We can't read our email or watch a video without getting subliminal messages. But these are not necessarily the type of information bits that we might choose if we had that call. These are the messages that color our world – often in a negative fashion. It's no wonder we have darkness and strife.

I can always remember the story of the young man who put down everything he had to buy a used car that wasn't much to look at with it's rust and dents and missing parts and it took just about everything he could earn on a daily basis to maintain it in running order just so he could get back to work the next day. Then one day as he was driving to work, late from oversleeping, he skipped breakfast and forgot to shave and just as he was feeling pretty glum about his life he noticed a sign on a new car dealer's lot that said: “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRIVE!” Imagine his mental state at that point. Why go to work at all?!? Why not just drive right off the edge of the world and say goodbye.

Anything we see, hear or read shapes our mood and our attitude. So it becomes even more important that we source out the type of news we want to color our world rather than just letting anything creep in. It becomes a lot more than just staying current on the news topics of the day. It's all about keeping our mental balance in check and allowing ourselves to “Keep On The Sunny Side.” Fortunately for us in the bluegrass world it is seldom that we get news of disaster or calamity. Most of the time, the sunny side we also may view.

So how do you get your bluegrass news? Do you actively go seeking the news by logging into one of the news sources? Do you subscribe to a list serve or regular newsletter">newsletter from a daily source? Local and national bluegrass associations who publish monthly newsletters are good for what they are, but so often the content is really no longer news by the time it reaches us. A better source for news would be a daily or weekly subscription. Usually the dailies only include three or four stories and that makes it a quick and easy scan to determine if you need to read more detail or can browse on by.

Prescription Bluegrass offers two daily newsletters that include the headlines and leading paragraph of each story we post. You can choose to have your daily newsletter delivered morning or afternoon. We also publish and distribute a more in-depth weekly newsletter with headlines for every story posted during the preceding week. And, you always have the option of getting an automatic email sent directly to you for every story we post just as soon as it is up on the page. We have all of the links for signing up conveniently located at www.PrescriptionBluegrass.com just click on SUBSCRIBE on the menu bar.

Thanks for reading our news! Now let us greet with a song of hope today. Since we can't actually greet in person, I suggest listening to any of the following songs by anyone you happen to like:

Take It Easy
Here Comes The Sun
Good Day Sunshine
Up Up and Away
I've Got Rhythm
What A Wonderful World
It's A Beautiful Morning
Try A Little Kindness
Happy Together
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Have a great bluegrass day,
Brian McNeal,
Prescription Bluegrass Radio Host & Blog Editor



THE DAILY GRIST…”Better late than never.”—Probably Benjamin Franklin, but who knows?

The 48, Isn’t It Great!
Today’s column from John A. Karsemeyer
Friday, January 24, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Can you imagine? It’s already been two weeks ago since we were all down in Bakersfield. Well, not all of us. John A. Karsemeyer, for example, was not. But he was his responsible self and got his second Saturday Welcome column in ahead of time. What DIDN’T happen, of course, is that John’s piece made it onto the CBA web site. We rectify that mistake this morning.)

Today’s “Welcome Column” is dedicated to the “Great 48.” This is the California Bluegrass Association’s (CBA) smaller version of “inside grass” venues like the Wintergrass Festival up in Washington State, or the IBMA gathering last year in North Carolina; all within suspecting hotels">hotels whose rooms and hallways have soaked up the ancient sounds of Bill Monroe’s creation over the years. The Great 48 doesn’t have as many people in attendance or as many bands as the aforementioned bigger venues, but the Great “48ers” have just as much fun.

This venue is happening today (Saturday) as part of a four day (January 9th through 12th)) Giant Bluegrass Jam Session, with some live band performances thrown in to add a little bluegrass spice to the musical recipe. Okay, so if it’s a four day event that equals 96 hours, why call it the “48” which would indicate a two day affair? If memory serves me in the best possible way, this bluegrass jamboree was created to be two days and then evolved into a good natured beast that now has a four day life of its own. Thinking outside of the box a little, if a person can jam 12 hours a day for four days that equals 48 hours; maybe that’s it?

Right now folks are getting-it-on musically at the Double Tree Hotel in the city where Buck Owens and Merle Haggard branded country music in their own way; Bakersfield, California. The Great 48 is a place where folks who are like-minded regarding bluegrass music gather together like a flock of migrating birds that set down from their winged journey in a place to eat, drink, and ingest large doses of recreation, so as to pave the way to a more enriched life down future’s highways.

Probability is high that regular readers of the CBA’s Welcome Columns are playing live bluegrass music right now at the Great 48, and not paying attention to this column, so I’ll keep it short. If you’re not aware of the specifics of the Great 48 and want to get there (yes there is still time), you can go to the CBA’s website for all the information that’s fit to print, and then head out to this event. The bluegrass poet visited me last night, and left me with these words.

THE GREAT 48

The Great 48
In the great Golden State
Is alive right now
So don’t be late
Fiddles and banjos
And guitars galore
If you’re still at home
Quick, get out the door!
Highway 99
Or highway 5 will do
To get you to the Doubletree
Where the grass turns to blue.
Where Buck Owens’s spirit
Still lives on,
Down at the Crystal Palace
In each and every song.
Strawberry fields
They just won’t do
But it’s the bakers in the field
That draws me and you
It’s the start of a New Year
The start of a new song
Beginnings of a new bluegrass
Always right, and never wrong.



THE DAILY GRIST…"Some mistakes are Jes TOO much fun to make only once.” JD Rhynes


Are we late? Byron Berline
Today’s Column from JD Rhynes
Thursday, January 23, 2014


The setting is the Midsummer Festival, at the fairgrounds of Nevada County in Grass Valley, California. I believe August of 1992. It may have been 1991 or 1993, but after a stroke and heart attack in years past, not to mention having been diagnosed with Parkinson's six years ago,the years are starting to run together on me. And to
make things worse, some days they don't exist at all, but those are stress-free days so I guess everything has a good side to it. Back to the story at hand. It was Friday afternoon and I was the backstage manager for the Midsummer Festival that year. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and the next act up was to be Berline,Crary,Hickman, and Spurgin. Just about then, one of the owners of the festival walked to the backstage area and asked me if I had seen any members of the next act that was supposed to be up?

I told him no I hadn't, but I wish they'd show up pretty quick because they were due to go on in 30 min. It was then that he dropped the bombshell on me when he said; well we're getting concerned because they haven't checked into the front gate Yet. Yikes!!! I told him you better go get the next act ready to go on in their place, just in ase they don't show up in time, so he disappeared in a cloud of dust.
10 long, agonizing minutes crawled by, and just about that time.
This little teeny compact car comes sliding up backstage in a cloud
of dust. Who piles out but none other than my buddy Byron Berline!
Then he says to me; JD, are we late? I said nope, got 20 min. to
spare. About that time the rest of the guys had got out of the car,
and Byron says to 'em; boys. We made it with 20 min. to spare!!! A
huge sigh of relief went out of the entire band, and Steve Spurgin
says good, we got time for a cuppa coffee.

So, while the band was getting their instruments tuned up I poured
them a cuppa coffee. I asked Steve where was your last gig? He
looked me right in the eye and said, Tahiti. Did you say TAHITI, I
asked? Yep he says,Tahiti, the gig from hell. It was then that he
told me of the ordeal it was for them to get from Tahiti to the
fairgrounds in Grass Valley on time. Now you have to remember this
was back in the early 90s when this all took place. Steve said there
was one airplane in and out of Tahiti once or twice a week back
then, and they were supposed to be at the airport to catch the plane
Wednesday morning. Steve said we were setting there about noon when
they see this airplane approaching and it flies on over the island
and keeps going. They figure they would catch the next plane and
they sat there for a couple hours. Then they went in and asked when
the next plane was supposed to be there because they were supposed
to get on it. The airport man asked them who they were and where
they were going? They told him who they were and they were supposed
be heading for Hawaii then to Los Angeles. Steve said the airport
guy panicked and said I didn't know you were supposed to be here to
catch that plane because that's the only one that comes by here once
a week. They told him he better get a plane because they gotta be in
Grass Valley to play music by Saturday afternoon. So the guy got on
the radio and got a plane headed their way to Tahiti, and about 12
hours later they are on the plane headed for Hawaii. Steve said that
airplane ride from Tahiti to Hawaii, seriously tested his power of
prayer. It was a twin engine airplane and Steve said the motors
backfired continuously and you could see fire every time it backfired,
and oil running down the wings

behind the motors. To this day, Steve says he doesn't know how that
airplane stayed in the air and by the time they got to Hawaii he had
ran clean out of prayer material. But, they weren't out of the woods
yet because they still had to get to Grass Valley. They got on a jet
to Los Angeles, changed planes for Sacramento, rented a small car
and lit out for Grass Valley, and got backstage at 2:40, 20 min.
before they were supposed to go on stage. That is close to a 3 Day
Rd. trip to make one gig! That has to be a world record for distance
and to get there on time.

Steve Spugin, Dan Crary and I sat down backstage at the Strawberry
Festival here a couple of years ago and relived that time of 22
years ago. I told them that is one of my most outstanding memories
when that rental car came sliding up backstage, and Byron jumping
out and asking me; JD, are we late? I only wish I had a picture of
the big grin on his face when I told him, nope, you got 20 min. to
spare. You look like you need a cup of coffee. One lump or two, you
take cream?



THE DAILY GRIST…”So pour me another cup of coffee, for it is the best in the land. Put another nickel in the jukebox, for I am a truck driving man” Every Bar Band

The Sissy Truck Drivin' Man
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I haven’t owned too many vehicles in my 40 years of driving, compared to some people. I find the process of selling and buying vehicles too stressful so I’ve kept my conveyances a long time.

But one thing I have discovered - the favorite ride for me is, hands down, the pickup truck. My first was a 1954 ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">Ford F100. I had saved some money and wanted to get a pickup, and I was picturing a late 60’s model, but I happened to be driving down a street in Pleasant Hill and saw this OLD pickup for sale. It was wonderful - VERY funky. 223 cubic inch straight 6 motor, single barrel carb, three-on-tree transmission. It had super low gears - a “stump puller” as the owner called it. Driving it on the freeway, it rattled and bumped so much the seat belt (after market of course - there were no seat belts in 1954) was the only thing that kept me flying out the window.

But there came a time when I needed to upgrade my banjo and selling the truck was how I got the money. I ended up selling the truck after 6 or 7 years for a little more than I paid for it.

The joys of driving a pickup stayed with me. I like the amazing visibility - you’re sitting up much higher than a regular car, and the rear window being just a foot or so behind your head means a glance over your shoulder gives you a clear quick look of the road beside and behind you. The cab of a pickup heats up quickly in the winter and cools off quickly in the summer.

And of course, it’s handy. Tossing stuff in the back of your pickup is an American pastime! Whether you’re going camping, going to the dumps (I still love doing that, God help me), going to a bluegrass festival, going to a football game or to Home Depot, the pickup is just the ticket! Anybody that’s camped near me knows I sleep in the back of my pickup at bluegrass festivals.

No camper shell for me, boys - my pickup’s bed needs the open air to be happy. I have become a whiz at tarping my loads after arriving a few times at destinations with somewhat less in the back than I started with. As a former Boy Scout, my pickups are always Survival Vehicles. They have tools, tarps, rope, blankets, books, pencils, carabiners, knives, duct tape, WD40 and warm coats in the back. Oh, plus extensions cords, spare power cords, and a collection of bunjees.

This past Saturday, I sold my silver BRUGRAS truck that I had for 12 years and 233,000+ miles. Two days later, I bought a new one - same make and model. And herein lies the dark secret. The secret that Rick Cornish, a true country man, spotted right away. I drive wimpy trucks. There - I said it.

The 223 CI motor in my ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">ford">Ford F100 was by far the biggest motor I’ve had in my trucks. The rest have all been teeny, tiny, mini pickuips: Chevy S10 and Nissan Frontiers. What can I say? Two factors have led me to this shameful place.

One, I am cheap. 4 cylinder motors get good gas mileage, and I put a LOT of miles on these little vehicles. And I drive gently, and I am fastidious about maintenance, so I make them little motors last a LONG time.

Secondly, I am a city boy - well a suburban guy, anyway. I don’t haul hay, livestock, or big rocks. I don’t tow boats, trailers or cement mixers. I live a light-duty lifestyle. I try and make up for it by being the guy who will help his friends move or pick up their new fridge or take their spring cleaning detritus to the dumps. But none of these things can hide the sad truth: I drive a sissy truck.

Does it matter that the Nissan Frontier is now a “midsize truck”? Or that I kept my BRUGRAS plates?



Gypsy jazz
Guest column David Naiditch
Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Bluegrass is wonderful music, and many spend their entire lives never tiring of it. Others, however, need to occasionally take a vacation from bluegrass. Even a brief vacation can be invigorating. Upon returning home, one may appreciate bluegrass from a fresh perspective. So where can one go for such a vacation? Consider going were many bluegrassers have gone before. Go to the land of Gypsy jazz. Indeed, when I attend Gypsy jazz festivals such as “Djanofest” and “Django in June,” about half the players come from a bluegrass background, and many still actively play bluegrass. (Most of the remaining half come from a jazz background and are typically identified by their propensity to use bebop licks.)

Why do so many bluegrassers enjoy Gypsy jazz? Bluegrass and Gypsy jazz have much in common. Both forms of music are acoustic and feature the guitar, violin, and bass. (Bluegrassers, however, adopt the mandolin and 5-string banjo, whereas Gypsy jazz players sometimes use the accordion or clarinet.) Since these two genres of music are acoustic, it is easy to jam at campgrounds, parks, restaurants">restaurants, bars, coffee houses, street fares, and anyplace else folks congregate. The rhythm in both bluegrass and Gypsy jazz is hard driving, and drums are rarely used because the string instruments provide all the percussion needed. The music is often melodic and easily accessible, not requiring a PhD in music theory to appreciate. The music also features instrumentals that are often a technical tour de force—fast and requiring a virtuoso to play well. Both bluegrass and Gypsy jazz typically favor the sharp keys, not the flat keys of straight-ahead jazz where saxophones and horn players rule.

The greatest difference between bluegrass and Gypsy jazz is that most bluegrass tunes are sung, whereas most Gypsy jazz tunes are instrumentals. Because many Gypsy jazz tunes come from the jazz repertoire, one needs to know how to play many more chords in Gypsy jazz, including strange creatures such as the minor 6 chord. One also needs to know more about different progressions and jazz-sensitive tones needed in lead playing.

So, how does one prepare for a vacation to Gypsy jazz land? If you want to just listen, familiarize yourself with the founders of Gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and their Hot Club of France, as well as contemporary Gypsy jazz greats such as Angelo Debarre, Biréli Lagrène, and Ludovic Beier. Also listen to the great U.S. artists such as Gonzalo Bergara, Jason Anick, Stephane Wremble, and John Jorgenson.

If you want to jam instead of just listen, play along to backup tracks of well-known Gypsy jazz tunes. You can purchase, for instance, Robin Nolan’s play-along tracks that lead with the melody--very useful if you don’t know the melody. If you know the melody, many backup tracks are freely offered by musicians such as Gonzalo Bergara on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/GBQuartet), and Stephane Wrembel on his website: http://stephanewrembel.com/lessons. Once you feel comfortable playing Gypsy jazz standards, join the jams and attend the workshops at “Djangofest NW” on Whidbey Island (http://www.wicaonline.com/DFNW2013.html) or “Django in June” in Massachusetts (http://www.djangoinjune.com/). Wintergrass also typically provides Gypsy jazz workshops and jams (http://www.acousticsound.org).


THE DAILY GRIST…"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”—Martin Luther King

MLK
Today’s Column from Bert Daniel
Monday, January 20, 2014


Today’s national holiday is a very special day with an anniversary twist this year. Some of us baby boomers can look back fifty years to a time when Martin Luther King, Jr. was in his heyday. This past summer we remembered the March on Washington and King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Fifty years seems like such a short time. Perhaps that’s because those memories are so vivid. Kennedy’s assassination. The war on poverty. Troublesome times those were for sure, and the escalation of the war in Vietnam would make the times even more difficult.

Martin Luther King was a troublemaker. A lot of people didn’t like him. He ushered in a period of intense social upheaval, generational conflict, senseless loss of life. But his was the voice of reason and he spoke with such eloquence that it changed a lot of people’s till-then closed-minded thinking about race and class. I know. I grew up in the south during the 1960’s. With his words alone, Martin Luther King changed everything. What reasoning person could argue with the proposal that human beings should be judged by the content of their character rather than color of their skin?

King’s revolutionary ideas went beyond racial bias. They made you think about cultural bias and class distinctions as well. What can we do to make it possible for anyone with a dream to reach his or her full potential? King’s dream was the American dream.

Last Sunday I went to the Community Baptist Church in Santa Rosa for the first time ever. The church sponsored a speech contest for middle school and high school students who had written about Martin Luther King for their school projects. My daughter Juliet went as the representative from Healdsburg. Her speech was great and of course my favorite, but all the kid’s speeches took me back to a time when I was growing up in the turbulent sixties.

The ideas expressed by the young orators had seemed like very new ideas to me in the sixties, but I realized as I listened to them all that the idea of social justice takes many forms and it is never new. It just needs a voice, and these kids were expressing those ideas in ways that meant something to them personally. For example, many mentioned the recent police shooting of Andy Lopez here in Santa Rosa. (For those of you who haven’t heard that story, Andy was a 13 year old boy who happened to live on the tough side of town and he was killed because he was carrying a toy gun that looked like an assault rifle).

The Santa Rosa Community Baptist Church caters to a mostly African American clientele. if I lived closer, I’d be tempted to go there even though I’d be much paler than the average worshiper for sure. The members of the congregation were very friendly, served great chocolate cake, and they played some really good music! One of the bands sang a cappella Gospel tunes. It was sublime.

I don’t know if Martin Luther king ever enjoyed Bluegrass music or Old Time music. For all I know he thought of the traditional song Down In the Valley as he sat in the jail writing one of his famous speeches:

Send me a letter, send it by mail
Send it in care of the Birmingham jail

King certainly enjoyed gospel music. Mahalia Jackson was often on the stage with him. I’m sure he heard some incredible live music in his day. When I think about Black Gospel music, I think about a comment my nephew made when he was about five or six years old. My brother had taken him to a funeral for the mother of a family friend who had worked for our family many years. Both the mother and daughter had sung in their church’s gospel choir so, although i wasn’t able to attend the funeral, I can imagine the music must have been pretty good. The comment from my young nephew after leaving the ceremony was something like: “Dad, that was the BEST funeral I’ve ever been to!”

Black Gospel is different from most of the Bluegrass Gospel you here. If you’ve listened to a lot of Doyle Lawson, some of the stuff you’ve heard is pretty close to what it should sound like. As we all know, music has the power to create a feeling we can’t express. It has the power to move us; to inspire us. Words can change us, as lyrics set to music or as impassioned rhetoric that makes us think about how we need to treat our fellow man. Happy MLK Day everybody!

CBA Music Camp 2014 Update: Classes and Registration
Today’s column from Geoff Sargent
Sunday January 19, 2014


Boy, December and January have been busy months and preparation for music camp just keeps on rolling along like a song that has no ending; maybe a couple of modulations and tempo changes here and there but, thankfully, there’s nobody around to throw a leg up to stop so we have to keep improvising new lyrics and taking breaks (metaphorically speaking).

This is the latest update from your illustrious Music Camp Directors Peter Langston and Janet Peterson: the highly anticipated class/teacher list so feast your eyes, scratch your picking fingers, and start tapping your feet in excitement!Bill Evans is teaching Bluegrass Band level 1/2; Jack Tuttle-Bluegrass Band level 3; Masha Crawford-Old-Time Band level 2/3; Molly Tuttle-Bluegrass Banjo level 2; Pat Cloud-Bluegrass Banjo level 3; Luke Richardson-Old-Time Banjo level 2/3; Sharon Gilchrist-Bass level 2/3; Greg Booth-Dobro level 2; Mike Witcher-Dobro level 3; Annie Staninec-Fiddle level 1; Blaine Sprouse-Bluegrass Fiddle level 2/3; Joseph Decosimo-Old-Time Fiddle level 2/3; Kathy Kallick-Guitar w/Singing level 1; Karen Celia Heil-Old-Time Guitar level 2; Jim Nunally-Guitar Solos level 2/3; John Mailander-Mandolin level 1; John Reischman-Mandolin level 2; Chris Henry-Mandolin level 3; Keith Little -Singing Style(s) level 2/3; Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum-Harmony Singing level 2/3; Kathleen Rushing-Fungrass level 0/1.

Now, there is one important piece of information missing from all this……..namely registration opens at high noon on February 7th, 2014. Oh my, Music Camp registration opens just in time to give a wonderful, heartfelt Valentine’s surprise gift-of-Music Camp. If you are searching for inspiration to give something unique to that someone special and you’re tired of giving flowers">flowers, candy, jewelry, puppies, kittens, or articles of clothing then there is nothing that says “I Love You” like the gift of Music Camp!

Be sure to keep a close eye on our Music Camp website at http://www.cbamusiccamp.org to register in February and for more breaking news. If you have other questions, please contact">contact us at info@cbamusiccamp.org. Keep on jamming and I hope to see ya'll at Music Camp, and the CBA Spring Campout.



THE DAILY GRIST…" A profoundly sensitive look at social prejudices and the toll said prejudices take on the human social organism.”—Walther Chaw, film critique, describing his take on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre
November 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Walter Chaw

Memories, Festivals, Zombies, and Drool
Today's column from Cameron Little
Saturday, January 18, 2014


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Last night we received the following email from young Cameron…”Hey Editor, my head is too muddled from the pain meds to finish writing my column this month. I'd like to offer this up as a re-run if you think it's okay. Thanks...” No, the kid hasn’t fallen into a wanton, desolute life of prescription drug abuse. What he HAS done is got himself on the wrong side of a chain saw. But he’ll recuperate, and in the meantime we’ll treat ourselves to a little retro ditty from a year and a half ago. Enjoy and wish our young friend well. Oh, lest you think the kid is just making up an excuse you might want to click here. Do it with a full stomach, though.)

Bluegrass festivals and related activities cause memories, and the intensity varies depending on your blood-to-coffee ratio. Memories have such a way of being...let me search for the right word here. Memorable. Many are fond memories, like the first time we hitch up our britches to play and sing - gasp! - IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. Or the first time we stay up late to play "just one more song", like that would ever happen because it always turns into ten more songs, and ten more songs eventually lead to prying your face from the pillow in the morning in order to be on time for a volunteer shift.

You might awaken to the siren call of an early morning jam, don something to protect your modesty, grab the mando, and stumble towards the music, blinking like a mole surprised by daylight. However, if people start snickering, simply head back to the tent and get reacquainted with the proper order of clothing (underwear go first, not last, pal). I just have to mention here, for legal reasons, that NONE of these things has ever happened to me or to anyone in my proximity. These are purely hypothetical examples and anyway, I refuse to name names...

Let’s zero in on the legendary Grass Valley Father's Day Festival, shall we? A place where many such memories are born each year for yours truly. Like the day my mom showed a respected elder friend how easy it was to find festivals on the internet, and demonstrated this by searching “Parkfield Bluegrass Festival”, but instead got the “Parkside Pub Turkey Testicle Festival”. Our friend, a real gentleman said, “Well, I guess there are festivals for every taste.” And yes people, that is not a hypothetical festival. The Parkfield one. The other probably tastes like chicken.

Staying up all day and night jamming means coffee. And lots of it. Stat. Coffee helps you stave off any silly notions that might come up, like being "tired" or "exhausted", or heaven help us, “having to go to work”. So, a stop at the coffee booth is a good idea. While there you may want to stock up for the hours ahead since the booth WILL BE CLOSED - eventually. I know that’s hard to hear but this is how the real world works. Pretty much. Just make your purchase, stash the sacred sustenance at your campsite, and go forth to unleash yourself upon the night. Actually, it’s more like stumbling awkwardly upon the night, since it often involves tripping through the un-lit underbrush, while attempting to keep the stand-up bass from getting scratched. So, say we emerge from the Forbidden Forest, and if successful, we usually arrive at the Holy Grail of the late night festival, The Late Night Hotdog Stand.

The street lamp casts a misty glow (even if it’s not mist but dust motes) and magic is in the air (even though it’s the moths). And the damn fine smell of those sausages and dogs">dogs! Holy heck! I just finished a massive dinner but I want one - no, I NEED ONE - of those sausage onion sandwich thingys now, dagnabbit! We walk from group to group, sometimes listening, sometimes joining in, sometimes creating another circle, marveling at the variety, the musicianship, the, okay, I’ll say it: The LOVE, people! Wild and sometimes rowdy, this is hallowed ground where performers like The Andersons or Northern Departure or Rhonda Vincent might play a couple of numbers, and then join in the jamming like regular folk.

After the Hotdog Stand crowd fades into the night, we die-hard teens lurch and search for jams, like zombies being drawn to brains. I’m always grateful that my cohorts include me in their jamming since I’m a homespun musician of the back-porch variety and they are PROFESSIONALS of the Professional-Do-Not-Try-This-At-Home variety. And if they tire of my repertoire or singing, they never show it. And I thank them for that.

Jams, especially late, late night jams, have many faces: the jam that was split on both sides of the irrigation ditch. The munchkin-sized jam under a partially dismantled canopy where our heads touched the ceiling. The jam on the back of a golf cart. The jam on the back of two golf carts. The jam in the arena announcer booth. The packed-into-a-tear-drop-trailer jam. The jam in the horse stall (really warm, no horse).

En route to the comfort of our respective tents, we hear the telltale sounds of a hot banjoist having it out with a blazing flat-picker. We look at each other, shrug a helpless shrug, and make our way toward the sounds. Even though I said I would not name names, I will name Eric Antrim here, guitarist, famously of Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players, ripping it up with several other pickers. Eric is usually the last guy standing at these late night jams, and there’s a rumor that he “sleeps” in a coffin somewhere. (Note to self: check Eric for fangs.) After playing “a couple more tunes”, we noticed the sky becoming oddly backlit. "Ha Ha! Those big street lamps make it look like the sun is coming up!" we chuckle. "Oh wait a sec, that IS the sun coming up..."

The sun signals the end of the jam, since we all know that teen stomachs are light sensitive: we’re hungry when it’s light and we’re hungry when it’s dark. Of course, it doesn't make much sense to go to bed at this point anyway, so with fingernails clawing the counter and barely managing caffeine withdrawal, we patiently claw/await the opening of the coffee booth. Caffeinated at long last, and with dull gleaming eyes, we crawl to the main festival stage, intoning “MUST. HAVE. BLUEGRASS!!” (again the zombie image). The rest is a blur but I’m told we were observed in the audience area with our heads lolling backwards, trying not pass out, but desperate to soak up those last tunes. If nudged, we would mumble, "I'm awake! I'm awake!" and delicately blot the drool from our mouths.

“Regret" and "Bluegrass Festival" are two words that will never be used in the same sentence. Except this sentence, but that’s it. That’s the only time. Ever. These festivals promote a treasured genre of music, they bring people together, and can be the vehicle for many of the more "interesting" memories in life.

(Cameron Little is a teen musician who always stays up late for bluegrass.)


THE DAILY GRIST…"Hello Florence Thompson; Looking at me through the years; With your tired eyes and dustbowl girls; How many shared your fears?”—Jason Winfree, from Hello Florence Thompson, Red Dog Ash

Will the Circle Be Unbroken: West Side Theatre Bluegrass Series
Today’s guest column from Jason Winfree
January 17, 2014


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of picking some tunes with Rick Cornish, who asked me to write a guest welcome column on the subject of a concert series Red Dog Ash is doing with some of California’s finest bands at the West Side Theatre in Newman, CA. “Don’t worry if it seems self-promoting,” he said, sensing my apprehension. “Just a couple of paragraphs will be fine.” I agreed, but I knew something had to give. I could easily write a couple of paragraphs, and I was grateful for the opportunity to plug the series, but doing so in the wrong way would almost guarantee that the column amount to little more than an advertisement. I thought about other welcome columns I’d read over the years, the purpose of the welcome format and its readership, and by extension different things folks do for the CBA, as well as what ties it all together: a love of bluegrass music. Advertisements are here and then they’re gone. They’re terse and profiteering. Bluegrass isn’t like that. It has an enduring power, something sustained by the community that loves it and supports it in so many ways. While I’d love to see folks support our series so that we make our bills and can do it again next year, I think most of you will understand what I mean when I say the hope for success really isn’t financially motivated, even if it has to be financially responsible. Knowing first hand how bluegrass musicians make hundreds of dollars a year, rather than advertise in the typical way with typical aims, I’d like to say something more about how the series came to be and what makes it possible. I’m talking about the love of bluegrass music we share, and how harmony almost always trumps the solo act.

Thinking about Rick’s request, three images came to mind. The first concerns my earliest bluegrass forays as a newcomer to the central valley. The second has to do with an important moment in the history of our band. The third, which ties it all together, is a memory of Red Dog Ash at Kings River last year singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with Charlotte Allen.

In 2002 my family and I moved to Turlock from back east. Somehow I learned of a jam at the Brown Bag in Modesto, and I went to a few of the sessions. Vaughn Lew and Keith Davis were there, and I’m happy to say they’re among my best friends and picking buddies to this day. There were also a couple of young girls there singing and playing, Angelica and Christine Grim. While work obligations cut into my bluegrass time, and the Brown Bag closed, I ran into Angelica again a couple of years later. Man, was I surprised when she showed up at my door to pick! I had no idea the person I had corresponded with through email was a 16 year old girl, no idea she could sing so beautifully, and no idea what to make of her mustached chaperon, who sat at the table while we played, smiling that Uncle Jack smile and drinking his coffee. When I think back on that day, I love the image of our unlikely trio. And I love the fact that the love of bluegrass music has crossed our paths more than once.

A few years later, I met Gary Vessel at the Capital Door jam in Modesto. It didn’t take us long to form a band. Gary is an impressive mando picker, as well as a world-class instrument builder, and from the start I felt a kind of privileged kinship making music with him. Composed of good pickers and fun times, our early band oscillated between inspiration and hog slop. Then, some unfortunate happenstance led to a series of fortuitous personnel changes, each as unlikely as the next. First, I met a local church music director at a psychedelic jam (the Lord works in mysterious ways, I guess). Although he was playing some funky electric bass that night and knew nothing about bluegrass, Eli Arrigotti had just bought a beautiful doghouse bass. Better still, he had a great ear, fantastic timing, and an eagerness to learn the genre. So he added a third voice, an exemplary work ethic, an easy demeanor, and great talent as an arranger. When, over a year later, we added Dixon Smith, things really clicked. Silent film critic, rare book dealer and collector, bluegrass musician and historian, Dixon got his start on A Prairie Home Companion, and his banjo playing is as imaginative and refined as his life’s story.

Weather permitting, the four of us practiced in a little park in Chowchilla, CA, just off 99 midway between Fresno and Turlock. Chowchilla is a quintessential central valley town: sleepy, hot, dusty, agricultural, small, and quiet, but with episodes of tragic past, the kind of place most folks pass through but never see. We put three sets of music together in that park, a lot of it original, refining our harmonies, working on arrangements, sweating and telling jokes. One hot July day, the quilters held a potluck, the homeless tapped their feet and scratched their heads to some free entertainment, while moms played with their kids, occasionally wandering over to watch us and ask about the strange instruments they’d never seen before. That’s when we decided to take our name from an original song by the same title. The image I have of the four of us in the park that day epitomizes what this music has been about for me: a group of people who sound better as a whole than by themselves, and who bring the best talents out of each other doing so, making something out of our differences and forgetting what otherwise might divide us. When Ron Cotnam joined our band a couple of years ago, it was hard to believe he had not been involved in those early sessions, since he, even more than the rest of us, embodies this image. That’s why he’s such a great bass player and such a fine bandmate.

A few years even before Dixon and Ron joined, we played the first annual Bluegrass in the Park series in Clovis. In the generous and forgiving audience that day, along with Kelly, Candy, Kent, Anne, Henry and Nancy, were Stan and Charlotte Allen. We were a young band at that time, and Charlotte must have been eleven or twelve. Over the years, Charlotte and Red Dog Ash grew up at kind of the same pace. By the time the band was mature enough to play an evening slot at Kings River, she had become a beautiful, intelligent, talented, independent and thriving young woman. Performing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with her at Kings River years after our first performance at Bluegrass in the Park, the meaning of the song came to me clear as a bell. The circle isn’t unbroken because it is finally complete, all there all at once, closed in on itself. It’s unbroken because it’s open, because it expands, because new people find their fulfillment in it, and because they do so with and through each other and the music they make. It’s unbroken because of things like Bluegrass in the Park, and because of the people who make that possible. And just as Ron wasn’t in Chowchilla, Marc Alvira wasn’t at the Clovis Veteran’s Memorial Park when we first played there, but he might as well have been. As the circle opens up, new beginnings and old ties often trade places.

There are lots of folks who’ve made possible the series that we’re putting on at the West Side Theatre. They’re the folks we’ve picked with over the years, the folks who’ve asked us to play at their events, the folks who’ve given us a listen and helped us realize our vision, and the other bands on the bill, who I’m sure have had similar experiences. The music is always better when others are involved. Harmony is a stronger and more perfect unity than the solo act. And that’s the idea behind our series.

So here’s the lowdown. The Sisters Grim kick it off on January 24, as seems appropriate to me given the image of Angelica and Jack at my place a decade ago. The Sisters Grim bring things full circle, so to speak. Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players follow on February 21, and I can’t think of a band that does a better job opening the circle, both with their talented musical exploration and their ethos. The Central Valley Boys take the March 14 slot doing what they do better than anyone, keeping the circle on track and showing everyone where this music comes from and how it still speaks. Rock Ridge plays on April 11. And whether it’s a cool and cloudy day or not, they’ll warm the hall with their beautiful harmonies and first rate original tunes. May 3 closes the series this year with the Earl Brothers, whose original vision of bluegrass is about as traditional as it could be. Red Dog Ash is proud to host this concert series and we hope to see you there. You can learn more about it at westsidetheatre.org and reddogash.com.

Thanks to all who’ve made this possible. And thanks, Rick, for the invite. A couple of paragraphs? Maybe next time. Until then, to quote a friend, “read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat some chocolate, drink a beer, and pray for rain.”



THE DAILY GRIST…"In the new era, thought itself will be transmitted by radio.”--Guglielmo Marconi, Nobel Prize winning, fascist apologizing inventor of the radio

Performance Rights vs Radio Freedom – Who is a Musician to Believe?
Today's column from James Reams
Thursday, January 16, 2014


Digging through political doublespeak on the Internet is worse than having a dentist digging around in my mouth. It was like trying to swim in quicksand. I kept getting sucked in…deeper and deeper with each click of the mouse. And the articles weren’t short ones either, many had clickable references to other pertinent articles and off I would go, down another rabbit hole leaving behind a whole trail of Internet cookie crumbs. Okay, I think I mixed up a whole batch of metaphors there, but you get the idea. To say I was confounded would be putting it mildly. But I thought that as a musician, I should be informed about potential legislation that could affect my bank statement.

Before you start writing a comment, I just want you to know that I’m not taking sides on this issue. To paraphrase a favorite TV character, I just plan to present the facts — short and sweet. And then maybe two of us will be aware of what’s going on about performance rights, free market royalties and radio airplay.

Legislation for Performance Rights Act H.R. 848 was first presented to Congress in 2009 and, though the bill died in committee, the issue has been heatedly debated in recent months with the February, 2013 introduction of the Local Radio Freedom Act (H.Con.Res. 16). In September of 2013, HR 3219 the Free Market Royalty Act was introduced. Hotly contended in all this flurry of legislature is the core issue, should AM/FM radio stations in the US be required to pay performers for broadcasting their sound recordings over the air?

The National Association of Broadcasters is opposed to a performance fee that must be borne by radio stations citing that local radio stations provide valuable community services (emergency alerts, local news/weather, etc.) and already provide free advertising and promotion for the recording industry. Non-commercial stations that are supported by listeners and tax">tax dollars as well as college stations were presented as being particularly at risk of shutting down because of increased fees.

It should be no surprise that the Future of Music Coalition, SAG-AFTRA, the American Federation of Musicians, the International Association of Independent Recording Artists and the Recording Academy all support the performance fee. These agencies point out that AM/FM radio is the only type of radio that doesn’t pay performers for playing their sound recordings (only songwriters and publishers get paid). Besides the US, very few countries do not compensate performers when their songs are played on the radio and local radio is alive and well in most industrialized countries despite any additional costs performance royalties may have imposed on them.

I found out that the now dead Performance Rights Act did take into consideration the plight of non-commercial and college radio stations by suggesting a cap on the amount those stations would pay out annually for unlimited use of recorded music ($500 to $1000). On the other hand, I also read that fewer artists are providing promo copies of their albums to radio stations, prompting radio broadcasters to feel like they would be required to pay for the music twice – once when they purchased the album and again whenever they played a recording.

Opposition to the performance fee also claim that AM/FM radio could be forced to adopt talk radio formats over music, a thought that sent shivers up my spine. As a performer I think it would be great to get paid any time one of my songs is played, and not just when I’m the songwriter. But I also want my songs to GET played and if the performance fee is going to affect play time for my music then I’ve just stabbed myself in the back.

Seems to me that there should be some sort of happy medium and maybe that’s what the Free Market Royalty Act will provide. Check out this site from Music First to find answers to the most frequently asked questions about this Act. Since it was introduced in September, 2013, there have been a number of articles/postings about this piece of potential legislation but it seems to me to be the same arguments pro/con that surrounded the Performance Rights Act.

I’m not an expert on these topics but I am a voter. And these resolutions may end up on a ballot someday, perhaps even in my lifetime. As musicians and music lovers, we owe it to ourselves to be educated about these issues, even if it leaves us in a coma.

Your thoughts? Write to me at james@jamesreams.com. Better yet…the National Association of Broadcasters has posted a list of House Representatives that are co-sponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act resolution. You may want to contact">contact your representative and let them know your feelings on the subject.


Musical Cuisinart
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I love to watch cooking shows on TV. There are a number of shows where up-and-coming chefs are challenged to take a bewildering pile of unexpected ingredients and create a dish that is balanced, pretty and delicious.

The same principle can work in music, too. I’m not sure you could randomly assemble a 40-piece symphonic orchestra with satisfying results, but it definitely works with a folk music like bluegrass. And just like the cooking shows, I enjoy watching the results of the Musical Cuisinart.

In Oakland every Monday, there’s an event called the Taco Jam. It has a long and interesting history. Originally, it was a standard open jam, and it was popular. The venue was a little Mexican restaurant whose owner was (and remains) a music fan. But it became a victim of it own popularity, as the jam grew and pushed out paying patrons. The owner had to pull the plug on the Taco Jam.

A local musician, Tom Lucas offered the owner an alternative - why not refashion the jam as a weekly event with a 5 piece lineup that would vary each week. Tom took on the responsibility of putting together 5 skilled musicians each week, and the Taco Jam was reborn. It works really well - and patrons who stop by the Baja Taqueria on Mondays are likely to hear wonderful bluegrass played by an amazing variety of players.

Another musical cuisinart is the Band Scramble. I have seen this format work really well. I find it interesting to watch musicians quickly form a cohesive musical unit. It’s especially pleasing when good vocal harmonies come from a Scramble band - but it happens more often than you’d think was possible.

There’s a fairly vocal segment of fans">fans that really don’t care for band scrambles, but I never understood why. Maybe the objection is more organizational than musical. If you’re going to put several bands together at random, and put them on a stage one after the other, it’s a pretty daunting set of logistics. You’ll have to make some effort to group players of complementary skill levels, herd them into their groups, let them go off and work up a few songs, then get the groups, one by one, on and off the stage. Maybe that can present a less than ideal experience fo audience members.

Anyway, bottom line, I enjoy watching, and participating in, impromptu bands. We get to combine rehearsals and performance into one event!

Postscript: Lost and Found list from the Supergrass Festivals:

1 Red Pick
1 Black Pick
1 glass eye, hazel, medium-sized
63 Red solo cups
39 Blue solo cups
1 white plastic bridge pin
1 Kyser capo
1 Shubb capo
1 Ruby Red slipper

If you believe any of these items are yours, contact">contact me immediately.


What to Look for in 2014
Today's column from Ted Lehmann
Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Look at this post as pure speculation based on what I think I see as possible trends. These predictions are NOT necessarily what I wish to see, and should be treated as possibilities in the near or not-so-near future. It might be interesting to look back on this post with an analytical eye a year from now, or even five, to see whether there's any further movement in these directions.

Continued Consolidation and splintering in Bands will continue. Some top and near the top bands will pick up highly skilled players to fill in spots that open up, because they can provide steady work and some small amount of security for sidemen. Meanwhile, talented young gunslingers will always believe that they're ready to break off and give it a try on their own.

Most of the new bands will fail, largely because their front men continue to believe “it's all about the music,” thus neglecting the all-important business side of the bluegrass effort. Poor business planning and execution kills more bands than poor or indifferent musicianship, partly because more opportunity exists now than ever before for finding innovative ways to grow. This is particularly true of taking the time to develop and maintain an online presence, especially in social media. This is not a job a recording company, booking agent, publicity agent, or manager can accomplish for bands successfully.

More underfunded festivals to emerge, and fail. Just as a high proportion of new restaurants">restaurants fail shortly after opening, so do most new bluegrass festivals. This appears to be due largely to weak planning and underfunding. Promoting a bluegrass festival is an extraordinarily complex effort for a nascent promoter to undertake just because they love the music and wish to share it with their communities. While the new electronic opportunities open the way further than ever before to finding and delivering an audience, they also make the effort that much more complex. Also, audiences are increasingly eager to be provided with comfort while spending a lesser amount due to the decreasing value of the dollar.

Fewer name bands will be asked to carry more festivals. At present there are too few marquee bands being asked to headline events in order to draw crowds. Almost all festival goers can name all these bands and is likely to see them several times a year, if they travel. Fortunately, most festival goers do not travel very far. Take a look at the license plates in any festival parking area, and count the number of out of state license plates. Nevertheless, there aren't enough bands with high enough name recognition to attract sufficient audiences to many bluegrass festivals.

Higher prices and more attendance will be the rule in 2014. As the economy continues to improve, increasing numbers of people looking for reasonably priced entertainment will discover bluegrass in both festival and arts centers. Furthermore, as the boomer audience and younger continue to age, their appetite for extremely loud music will diminish. This makes bluegrass and string band music increasingly attractive to a gigantic audience. This audience looks a good deal different from the more traditional bluegrass audience, particularly at the younger end. More young, health conscious parents will become less willing to have their children's hearing assaulted by loud music, and they have more dispossable income than all but the retired seniors. This will be seen particularly in attendance at outdoor festivals during the summer months.

More All-Star Bluegrass Festivals ? Fewer Opportunities for Newer Bands might seem to be a contradiction, but seems to me to be likely. During the now ending recession, people had to pull back on their entertainment expenditures. Bluegrass festivals had to upgrade the quality of the top of their lineups to attract audiences, and people became used to a heavy preponderance of bands they either knew and liked or had heard extensively on the air and on recording. This led to a number of events that emphasized high name recognition from top to bottom of the lineup and reduced the opportunity for lesser known and new bands to gain exposure. As all-star festivals proliferate, local and aspiring national bluegrass bands will have decreased opportunities to gain real performing experience, gain confidence, and develop a local and regional following at festivals. Festivals will continue to take less risk.

The Bluegrass market will continue to grow and move indoors. Part of the bluegrass audience continues to age while wishing to remain active fans">fans of bluegrass. Younger people, with busy lives and active families, really can't afford the time to attend festivals. Fewer people seek the possible discomfort of rain and cold or searing heat, sometimes on the same day. While a three or four day bluegrass festival remains one of the great bargains in entertainment, fewer people can commit the amount of time required to attend one. Younger people are eager to hear their music delivered with good, reliable sound. All these factors suggest the growth of indoor bluegrass. The indoor bluegrass festival offers more comfort, flexible facilities for large and small performance, workshop, and jamming areas, as well as convenient hotel facilities at a discount. Such events open the bluegrass experience to people who don't seek to invest in RV's and don't wish the discomfort (for some) of tenting. Such events also make bluegrass more easily available for urban and suburban audiences, while lengthening the bluegrass season. As the population of rural America continues to shrink, the indoor event looks increasingly attractive.

Arts Centers Continue to Proliferate in nearly every small and medium sized town where there is an empty movie theater. Many of them are dilapidated art deco vaudeville and movie palaces from the early to mid-twentieth century, while others are even older opera houses or disused schools with large auditoriums. Such facilities can be purchased by the the local arts council and rehabilitated for subscription performance series in addition to arts and craft classes, community meeting rooms, and much more. Many of the arts centers program one or two bluegrass bands as part of an eight or ten concert series which often includes a symphony orchestra, a dance troupe, a Broadway musical, a pop or rock singer, and a bluegrass band. These series are pre-sold with a portion of the seats withheld for each special performance and provide a bounty for bluegrass bands which once depended upon fine weather. A corollary to this movement is that specialized bluegrass promoters will become less necessary, but arts centers do need bluegrass advisers.

Moderate to severe genre bending will continue and many will continue to call what they hear bluegrass, if it sounds like Bill Monroe or not. Whether it's plugged in string band music that sounds more like rock and roll than what we generally think of as bluegrass, or contemporary music calling on the sounds and songs that predate the bluegrass era, it can mix well with bluegrass in a variety of settings, continuing to attract older and more conservative listeners while introducing younger, rock-oriented fans">fans to classic bluegrass and country. There also seems to be a longing for quieter, but equally up-tempo and emotionally pleasing music among maturing baby boomers and millenials which can be satisfied by this mixing of related musical styles.

Healthier Bluegrass Musicians Due to the ACA (Obamacare) (thanks to James Moss). During the past several years, we've seen many benefit concerts and fund raising efforts held for sick and dieing bluegrass musicians. Unless they have a spouse with a full-time job that includes family benefits, an increasing rarity during the past generation, few bluegrass musicians have health care. They're constantly in fear of the disaster that a serious illness or injury presages. The emergency ward truly isn't a real substitute for good supportive and preventive care, nor does life on the road encourage good habits. Even early reports suggest that musicians may be leading the charge in a turnaround of attitudes toward Obamacare, even with its flaws and difficulties, which can be resolved if we work together to solve them.

Streaming concerts and even festivals will become more common. Changes in the way that television works and how a television can be connected to a computer make bluegrass concerts in your living room an increasingly common event. You can already watch some bluegrass events on television at a relatively small price. Imagine an evening with four or five different bands playing while you enjoy them from the comfort of your living room at a reasonable price made possible because of the economics of scale.

There is an emerging audience for bluegrass, if we can identify and nurture it. There's no knowing how many potential bluegrass fans">fans there are out there. We meet many people along the road who tell us, “This is the first bluegrass event I've ever been to. I'm having a wonderful time.” Many of them have preconceptions about hillbilly music garnered from bad television and visions of hay bales. They never knew, until they came to the event that they were going to see some of the best musicians playing some of the most sophisticated music there is. Each of us can help grow the music by bringing a new person to a concert or to a day at your local festival, by being a good ambassador for the music, and by spreading the word. As time and technology move along, there will be new venues and new delivery systems for new fans">fans. It's never like it was yesterday, let alone nearly seventy years ago, when Lester Flatt and Earle Scruggs stepped on the stage at the Grand Old Opry with Bill Monroe, and bluegrass music was born.

Click to Ted’s blog…it’s a good one.



THE DAILY GRIST…”"O lost and by the wind grieved. Ghost come back again." (If anyone knows the identity of this quote’s writer, we’d be grateful to hear from you.)

Lost Youth
Today's column from Bert Daniel
Monday, January 13, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Bert’s column was written for yesterday, Sunday the 12th; however, the web master prudently poured every last ounce of energy he could muster into making the long drive from Bakersfield to the mid-Sierra Mountains and hence Dr. Bert’s piece on “lost youth” runs a day late. (We’d say “and a dollar short” but like all volunteer hours spent on the job no money changed hands.)

I figured my required second Sunday welcome column would be a piece of cake this week. After all, lots of readers will be headed back from the Bakersfield 48 hour jam and this should be like the Father’s Day Festival week columns that nobody reads anyway. No pressure. I can write whatever I want.

First I have to prepare lunch so I get out the sandwich grill and make a grilled cheese sandwich. It was a far cry from the best grilled sandwich I have ever had, made by Deb Livermore during my one and only trip to the Bakersfield 48. I wish I had remembered Deb’s trick of coating the outside with butter. Adding a side of tomato soup would have helped too.

I finish my grilled cheese, now I have to get ready to write my column. I figure I’ll check today’s welcome column and if it’s good, maybe that will give me some inspiration. I fire up the iPad and see that today’s columnist is George Martin. I’ve known George from I don’t know how many campouts, but all I knew for a while was that he was a super nice guy who played good banjo and would jam with just about anybody including me. I knew he was a good welcome columnist too, but I didn’t know until recently that he had worked as a professional journalist at a major newspaper his whole career.

OK, I thought. This will be good inspiration for whatever I might want to say about grilled cheese today. Then I read the column. For those of you who missed it, scroll forward and I’m sure it’s still there. Maybe it will speak to you as it did to me.

George’s column spoke to me by saying “You need to write about more than grilled cheese sandwiches today”. His touching description of an aging old friend, singing the song “When You and I Were Young Maggie” reminded me of a quote which has haunted me from the moment I first read it:

“O lost, and by the wind grieved. Ghost come back again.”

Every time I think of that quote from Look Homeward Angel, I think of how the past is the past. I think of how great it would be to relive the good times and avoid all the mistakes of the past. But you can’t. As I approach sixty now, the past becomes more and more of a ghost.

But I try not to dwell on depressing stuff like that. Otherwise you’ll have the Blue Ridge Mountain Blues right?

When I was young and in my prime
I left my home in Caroline
Now all I do is sit and pine
For the folks I left behind

When I look around at any bluegrass event, I see a lot of folks like me who are getting long in the tooth, or at least starting to. Each year brings CBA news of the passing of some people dear to us. Let’s face it, some of us are not long for this world. You never know when it will be your own time to go. We know that implicitly but we don’t think about it when we get together and enjoy each other’s company do we? We jam away like there’s no tomorrow and we should. For someone in the jam there might be no tomorrow and it might be us, but let’s not go there.

And our youth is not lost either! It’s just relocated. Listen to some of the teen and preteen jammers at our events and you’ll know what I mean. The CBA has a such great youth program. If we over-the-hill aging boomers had had such a program in our day, no telling how good we’d be now.

I’ve rambled on enough now. Thanks for the cheese sandwiches Deb. Thanks for the inspirational writing George. And thanks for listening everybody.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Most of our web site visitors are aware of the fact that Grammy-nominated Special Consensus is coming west this week to play at our GREAT 48 Jam in Bakersfield. What you may not know is that the guys have several other appearances scheduled for their mini tour. Greg and his band are playing some of the tastiest traditional bluegrass in the country these days...don't miss a chance to see them. Click here for their complete tour schedule.

THE DAILY GRIST…"Life no longer seems infinite. Every day is a blessing.”—George Martin
The chill wind of autumn
Today’s column from George Martin
Thursday, January 9, 2014


Fifty-one years ago I knocked on an apartment door on the south side of San Jose, out near Tully Road, an unremarkable act that I did not realize would change my life.

I needed to use a telephone to get phone service for the apartment two doors down where">where my three San Jose State roommates and I were entering our senior year at the school. A little toddler opened the door, followed by a nice young woman who allowed me to use the phone. While I was on the line with Ma Bell I noticed an Italian-style bowlback mandolin hanging on the wall.

“Does someone play that?” I asked.

“My husband,” she said. “He’s a reporter at the Mercury-News. He’ll be home in a few hours.”

How serendipitous! I was a journalism major! So after supper I took my guitar next door and met the man who would become my brother-in-law, then my “brother-out-law,” mentor, friend and almost the brother I never had. We sat down and discovered we knew a lot of the same folk tunes and country songs. But he new a bunch of rag-time and traditional jazz songs as well, which he proceeded to teach me.

That was in September. In January the lady of the house announced that her sister was coming from Illinois to stay a while and possibly relocate to California. This piqued my interest, as I had just lost a girlfriend, and my informant was a really nice person, bright, funny and attractive.?? It took about a month but one February day I went next door and there was a beautiful, dark-haired girl sitting at the kitchen table. She wore a white blouse, flared skirt and one of those little round pins about the size of a quarter that were all the rage back in the 1960s. I remember thinking, “this could be the one,” and not long after, we started dating">dating.

I finished my journalism degree and got a job in Richmond, near my home town. The neighbors, including Barbara, moved to San Francisco, which was convenient. I got a lot of free tickets to things in San Francisco (I was the second-string entertainment writer) and I would put my suit in a cardboard box, ride my motorcycle to Russian Hill, change at their place and take the cable car with Barbara downtown for dinner and whatever I was reviewing. (Old-timers may remember that cable cars">cars were once public transit, not a carnival ride. They cost 25 cents and you could just climb on at any street corner where">where they stopped.) After the show I'd re-pack the suit, ride the bike back to Richmond, write the story and sack out for a few hours on the ladies' room couch until my copydesk shift started at 7 a.m.

Feb. 6, 1964, we were married in a simple courthouse ceremony and we’ll be celebrating our half-century anniversary in a few weeks. But that isn’t what this column is really about. This is one of those “I tell you that to tell you this” deals. This story is about having a musical friend, Lynn the mandolin player, for more than 50 years.

In the early years our families got together often, and spent holidays and summer family camp vacations together, always with our music and usually with friends playing as well. Then there was a divorce but I continued to hang out with Lynn both because of the music and because we both worked for newspapers, I at the Oakland Tribune and he at the San Francisco Examiner.

As I learned banjo and got good enough to play for others, Lynn was a part of my first bluegrass band for a while. But he didn’t want to do gigs, so he dropped out but remained in my musical orbit.

When the Knowland family sold the Tribune to a big conglomerate, working conditions there deteriorated so badly that I wanted out. Lynn tipped me that there was an opening on the Examiner copy desk and I’m sure he whispered a good word about me in the proper ear. I got the job and joined him in San Francisco, where I worked 20 years until the Hearsts bought the Chronicle, and even one year after that at the Chron.

Last week we attended a music party in San Francisco, and played tunes with our long-time friends. Lynn is 80 years old now. He’s had a couple of heart attacks, and doesn’t sing much anymore since a stroke affected his speech.

One of the tunes we played that night was “When You and I Were Young Maggie,” and when I got to this part...

A city so silent and lone, Maggie,
Where the young and the gay and the best,
In polished white mansions of stone, Maggie,
Have each found a place of rest,
Is built where the birds used to play, Maggie,
And join in the songs that were sung;
For we sang as gay as they, Maggie,
When you and I were young.

...I struggled to sing the words. I have sung that song for decades, but the emotional impact only showed up as I began to wonder, how many more times will we play together? How many more times will we share a meal, or a joke?

We have hiked together, vacationed together, watched our children -- favorite cousins -- grow up and become adults. We are both grandfathers now, and Lynn is a great-grandfather. I treasure countless memories and I ponder what is coming our way next. How long our future will be is unknown, but it won’t be as long as our past.

Life no longer seems infinite. Every day is a blessing.



THE DAILY GRIST…"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”--Mark Twain

Great Moments in Bakersfield History
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, January 8, 2014


1858 – Area settled, and named (modestly) by Colonel Thomas Baker, who allowed weary settlers to rest in his fields.

1873 – Bakersfield incorporated as a city.

1874 – JD Rhynes born on the future site of the Crystal Palace

1925 – Rose Maddox born – not in Bakersfield

1937 – Merle Haggard born in Oildale, which is practically Bakersfield

1943 – Texan Alvis Edgar Owens drives his truck through Bakersfield, and makes two momentous decisions. One, he changed his name to “Buck” because of the antlers affixed to the hood of his truck. Secondly, he decided to move there. Also, Craig Wilson is born in the boxcar next to Buck Owens’ house.

1945 – Craig Wilson’s first words: “Lloyd Loar” are uttered. No one knew at the time what this meant.

1953 – Nothing happened. Literally. You can look it up. Absolutely nothing happened in Bakersfield in 1953.

2004 – Supergrass Festival makes its debut. Bakersfield’s economy is invigorated by the influx of big-spending bluegrass fans">fans from all over the country. The mayor (Bosephus Baker) declares the CBA to be honorary Rotarians and gives Carl Pagter and Jake

Quesenberry the keys to the city. Pandemonium erupts and over the next 16 months, fully 40% of male babies (and 24% of female babies) born in Bakersfield are named “Carl” or “Jake”. There is much kissing in the streets of Bakersfield.

2005 – Supergrass rides again. 500,000 fans">fans pack into the Holiday Inn, and Wavy Gravy exclaims from the stage “What I have in mind, man, is breakfast for half a million, man!” cars">Cars line highway 101 for miles and on day 3, the fences are torn down and it’s a free festival. Arlo Guthrie is a big hit, but CBA members complain that The Who were too loud and said “What’s up with them smashing their instruments?”

2006 – Supergrass one more time. Steve Jobs bankrolls the event and acts perform on 17 stages within the Holiday Inn. The promoters got a little too eclectic and double-bills such as Ricky Skaggs opening for Deep Purple, U2 with The Wilders and The Alhambra Valley Band sharing the stage with Pat Benatar drove many fans">fans out to the parking lots to jam. Within the sweaty, crowded confines of the stages in the Holiday Inn, it is reported that two babies were born, dozens fainted from exhaustion and one man became convinced he was Pauly Shore (he wasn’t). The event, frankly had just grown too big. One happy note: Dave Gooding, who had gone missing during the 2007 Supergrass, was found by a member of the Holiday Inn’s housekeeping staff at the 2009 event.

2008 – The Great 48 Annual Jam Session is born. Many bluegrass pickers loved the Supergrass Festival’s locale and time of year, but preferred an informal jam to a full blown festival, and out of this demand, the yearly jam dubbed “the Great 48” was born. The Doubletree Hotel, seeing a way to boost occupancy at a time when travelers through The Town that Buck Built are few, jump at the chance to offer an attractive rate to bluegrass folks. Shortly thereafter, they discovered that the pickers intended to pick all night long, and this caused much turnover on their staff, but they quickly brought on people who could stand banjo music for 12+ hours at a stretch.

2012 – The Great 48 adds more entertaining facets. The nonstop jamming continues, of course, but workshops, a band scramble and pre-jam concert are added. Bakersfield residents, previously shell-shocked by the Supergrass Festivals, embrace the bluegrass fans">fans as their own, and community organizations such as the Rotarians, Lions, Tiger and Bears donate time and money for the event. The Great 48 enters a general “era of good feeling”, and many chakras are positively affected by the interaction between bluegrass pickers and the locals.

2014 – The Great 48 continues – the Era of Good Feeling still persists – this year’s event is THIS weekend (January 9-12th) at the Double Tree (he Bakersfield DoubleTree hotel is conveniently located, at: 3100 Camino Del Rio Court, Bakersfield, CA 93308 (near the junction of SR-99 and SR-58). Just click on the link for more info!



Today's guest column from Joe Weed
Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Gino Robair, musician/composer and columnist for Mix Magazine, recently wrote about the futility he sees in expecting to make money from playing and recording music. After he received a music download key on a chocolate bar distributed by a band, he lamented that musicians have to resort to selling “merch” and cute kitsch to bribe people to listen to and purchase their music. Robair longed for a time when people chose music for its intrinsic value, and didn’t have to be cajoled into buying it through offerings of candy, attractive download cards, tee-shirts, etc.

Old Man Markley, the touring bluegrass/punk band my daughter Katie plays with, carries an extra person with them on their crowded bus. That person’s job is to sell merch for the band before, during and after their performances. The group frequently makes more money selling merch than they do from ticket or CD sales. The “merch,” or merchandise, consists of hats, caps, hoodies, shirts, pajamas, underwear, and more. Many readers will remember bluegrass favorites “Red Knuckles and the Trail Blazers” (Hot Rize) selling merch (including fly swatters) along with their LPs and cassettes at their shows back in the 1980s. But CD prices have become so low, and music itself so devalued, that expecting a touring band to survive from units sales alone is no longer reasonable. And Old Man Markley’s CD “Downside Up” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, which is based on sales.

DiscMakers, a popular duplication company that manufactures CDs for independent artists, asked me to host a webinar a few years ago. I answered questions from young recording engineers and musicians who wanted to learn about operating a professional recording studio. One energetic questioner wondered why we charge by the hour in the studio, instead of just quoting a flat rate for a song. I explained that the only way to make money in the studio is to charge for a neutral, objective commodity like hours and minutes. He countered that making music should be facilitated and fostered by the studio, and that charging for time was an obstruction to the creative person achieving the ultimate experience of getting an original piece recorded. I explained that good engineers and producers do indeed work very hard in creative and inspiring ways to help artists achieve their beautiful result, and that they also have to make money to pay for the mortgage, the recording gear, groceries, car payments, etc. The questioner felt that making money sullied the creative process, and that the money should somehow come from “somewhere else.”

Napster, the illegal music file-sharing site, was reaching its peak a few years ago in helping users get music without paying for it. I decided to write a column about it. Wanting to be properly informed, I went to the Napster site to join up and sign on. One of the first things a new user had to do before getting access to the site’s file-sharing services was to agree not to copy, reverse-engineer, or distribute the software">software that ran the site and made it work. In other words, it was fine for Napster to facilitate the copying and distribution of music, but not OK for the users to copy and distribute the site’s own software">software. So software">software engineers and Napster’s executives could make money from their intellectual property, and buy homes, send their kids to college, and be economically successful, but these privileges were not for people whose intellectual property was music.

When I was a young musician playing in clubs in the Bay Area, my band members and I prided ourselves in writing and arranging our own music and performing it carefully and artistically over a sophisticated sound system. We felt that what we were offering was much better crafted and artistically rewarding than much of the pop music being played by copy bands at top 40 clubs. Our band developed a reputation for being different, and for being a great “listening” band. But I still remember well the conversation we had with a club owner when we were negotiating an appearance. “I’ll NEVER book jazz here,” he told us (we weren’t a jazz band). “Don’t get me wrong — I love jazz, and I played it in college. But whenever I book a jazz band here, I get a house full of people who come to listen quietly to the band, buy one drink, and nurse it all night. I can’t stay in business if I can’t sell drinks. Bands bring me patrons, and patrons buy my drinks. It’s that simple. If the crowd doesn’t drink, I need another band.”

In the 1920’s and 30’s, RCA Victor, the largest American recording company, created a huge catalog of recordings of ethnic music performed by immigrants from Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Bohemia, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world. It wasn’t the intention of the Victor company to document recently arrived ethnic groups’ musical traditions to serve future folklorists and music historians. And they lost money on the enterprise, selling the disks at a loss. But Victor figured that if they sold the various groups recordings of their music, people would rush out to buy record players so they could hear their favorite music without leaving home. The disks were loss leaders. The record players made the big bucks for the company.

I think a common thread in all the above stories is that culture (in this case, music) and commerce are intimately entwined, and in spite of the altruistic among us wanting to elevate music to a “higher plane,” a necessary ingredient to getting it spread around is frequently … money. That is, commerce.

When Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on NPR’s “Car Talk” show hawk their merch, they refer listeners to their “shameless commerce” department. Granted, they are comics, but they see the irony that commerce, from the elevated perspective of those with guaranteed salaries and benefits, is somehow shameful, and should never sully the artistic endeavors of the truly gifted. Unless they want to make a living from their art. And thus the truly successful artist has to make peace with a difficult contradiction: She has to be an individual, while creating something that communicates to a wide spectrum of people. And she has to be entrepreneurial enough to get that creation out to the masses, promote it, and convince them to buy it. Or at least buy a chocolate bar and download the music.

Please send me your thoughts about this, either via email, to joe@highlandpublishing.com, or via snail mail, to Joe Weed, PO Box 554, Los Gatos, CA 95031. I look forward to sharing your thoughts with readers in a future column. Now, where did I put that download card??

Joe Weed records acoustic music at his Highland Studios near Los Gatos, California. He has released six albums of his own, produced many projects for independent artists and labels, and does sound tracks for film, TV and museums. Joe’s composition “Hymn to the Big Sky” was heard in “The Dust Bowl,” a film by Ken Burns, which premiered nationally on PBS November 18 and 19, 2012. Joe recently produced “Pa’s Fiddle,” a collection of 19th-century American music played by “Pa” Charles Ingalls, father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series. Reach Joe by calling (408) 353-3353, by email at joe@highlandpublishing.com, or by visiting joeweed.com.


THE DAILY GRIST…"
"And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne." --Robert Burns

MMXIV
Today's column from Mark Varner
Monday, January 6, 2014


Dear friends,

Happy New Year to you and your kin. Thanks for joining us on the CBA’s glorious website. I hope 2014 will find each and every one of you who appreciates this major feat of bluegrass/old time celebration and communication giving credit to the poobah of this site, Rick Cornish. He’s a large man, so carrying him around on our shoulders is a dubious proposition, but he’s not averse to hugs and praise. What an accomplishment this website is, and though he has countless minions volunteering their time to assist him, it’s Rick who is the Sun in this little model of the solar system we call California bluegrass on the web.

Likewise, looking back over this past year, I’m proud to say that the CBA’s board of directors has done a fine job keeping us going and moving us forward. They have ensured that us geezers have musical fun, through events and the community built by our paper and website. And just as important, they have focused in a big way on youth programs">programs">programs">programs that will create a future where the music will play on and on. If my wonderful offspring are any example, this lifestyle is a path to becoming a good, smart and creative human being.

I encourage all parents to consider our music camp dedicated to educating musical youngsters. The CBA Youth Academy, a 4-day music camp for children 8-16, held on the Nevada County Fairgrounds during the Father's Day Festival, is registering now. Cost is a very reasonable $300 per child. Some scholarships are available, I understand. The Camp runs Wednesday through Saturday, June 11-14, 2014. Information on this website or call 510 735-6364.

I send out my personal appreciation to the leadership and members of this association for making my job as editor more than a pleasure; it’s such a big part of my life, for which I am very grateful. Folks sometimes tell me they know I have a “thankless job,” and while I typically enjoy wallowing if pity, this is just not accurate. I get so much feedback and support. I feel very appreciated.

Marty and I are looking forward to our first Great 48. It will be a blessing to hang out in a nice hotel and pick and visit. Hopefully my fingers will hold out, ha ha. Hope to see every one of you down in Bakersfield.

Hey! I’ve got actual news to impart! September 19-21 there WILL be a Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills in Plymouth. L+S Promotions have been weighing their options over the last couple of years and the thought of no Plymouth would be a sad one indeed. But rejoice and be sure and hang by your thumbs while we await the line up. You know it’ll be good, cause Sondra and Larry would guarantee nothing less.

Another thing coming up is Tim Edes’ South Bay event, a Night at the Grange. That happens Saturday, February 22 and features the western swing of the Quebe Sisters and the actual bluegrass of our own Central Valley Boys. While working on the event program I learned one of those facts that never ceases to tickle my funny bone. Did you know that the city of Morgan Hill is named for founder Hiram Morgan Hill? True fact.

Oh, as Columbo would say. There’s one more thing. I am so proud of my long time friend and musical genius, Luke Abbott, for being part of the great Keith Little’s new “Littleband”. How cool is that?

Your pal,
Mark Varner
mrvarner@ix.netcom.com


War Whooping to the Oldies
Today's column from Marcos Alvira
Sunday, January 5, 2014


The ear buds were jammed tight into my ears. The first pulsing beats of “Dusty Miller” pounded their way into my brain. That songs always grabs me. I was off and running. Not a brisk jog, mind you. I was whooping and hollering on a dead run launching off little hills and rises along the trail, leaping over piles of slippery wet leaves and small logs, like the kid in the old P.F. Flyer commercial flying over the short white picket fence. This version of the classic fiddle tune was fast and driving. Somehow it stirred within me that same spirit as my 11 year old former self, running with the wind with my cousin Charlie through Ozark farm fields, my feet occasionally finding the fresh cow patty, the green goo squirting ‘tween toes.

We always ran, never walked unless we had the .22’s cradled in our arms. Once, while in mid stride, my legs beginning to coil so I could vault a low lying barbed wire fence, Charlie cried out, “Stop!” Something about the urgency brought me abruptly to a standstill, balanced on my back leg, my bare front foot about six inches from the ground, read to plant with the spring load that would send me sailing over the fence. I stood there, my pose balanced, still, contorted—an exotic modern sculpture in a Missouri pasture. Along the ground, inches below my poised foot, slithered an inky black cotton mouth. Charlie’s eyes were accustomed to seeing the invisible dangers before him in the deep, green pasture grass (he rarely had cow patties ’tween his toes). He had spied the venomous viper a dozen feet back. I was simply running with the joy that the Ozarks inspire in a boy when he’s allowed to roam free in the fields and woods.

This day, “Dusty Miller” conjured those latent emotions and I was running with abandon…for about 75 yards until the sudden anaerobic exertion doubled me over so that my stomach might heave. After a few moments to catch my breath, I continued on with my biweekly 5K run, this time at a sensible pace. My hamstrings were as taught as mandolin strings after the capricious dash. That unwise burst of energy seriously robbed me of the reserve I needed for a good run. Had Charlie called out his warning to me today, I would have slowed to a halt like a large cargo ship taking miles to turn and stop in the ocean. Today I would have been the viper’s victim; I would be a two inch story buried in a corner of page four of the Aurora Advertiser, their daily rag.

The truth is, even though I carry a few more pounds than I should, I can knock down four miles on a good day. These 55 year old legs are like determined pistons in a leaky old steam engine. They’ll carry me the distance, but with a lot of squawking and coaxing. I hold out a hope, however senselessly, that at some point my legs will begin to feel like springs again instead of rusty hinges—that they might feel rejuvenated after a run instead of knotting into little aching balls that make 2x4’s look limber. Stretch, plyometrics, run, stretch some more. I would become an instant millionaire if I could discover the balm or liniment that could resuscitate middle-aged legs and enable balding, chubby guys feel like they’re 11 again.

Today I enjoyed a beautiful run. The winter’s sun was to my back, and the long January shadows cast by the trees looked like tall gangly spectral stick people waving their arms at me like spectators lined up along the streets of a famous marathon race. I took some pleasure in noticing that I was the oldest runner on a popular path. I had just finished the first mile and was feeling pretty good. I plucked the iPod from pocket, and thumbed the little dial ring, scrolling down to “Dusty Miller.”

See you at the Great 48…let me know if you want to go for a run Saturday morning!


Contemporary film portrayal of folk music
Today's column from Marty Varner
Saturday, January 4, 2014

The current stock of movies that are nominated for the Golden Globes currently and will soon be nominated for the Oscars is one that will be remembered for decades. What makes this year special as well is that two of the biggest movies of the year have “bluegrass-ish” songs throughout the movie. The obvious one is the new Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis, which explores the life of struggling musician Llewyn Davis who is supposed to be based off of Dave Van Ronk. While the movie contains much more, most scenes have a folk song either in the forefront or in the background to create the feel of the scene. Just like for Oh Brother Where art thou? there was a live concert that Showtime presented where the artists from the sound track perform the songs live. To create the sound track the producer, T-Bone Burnett, enlisted the work of the most talented musicians out there. Some artists in the sound track are David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, The Milk Carton Kids, and the almighty Punch Brothers. Along with their role with music in the film, Chris Eldridge’s face is on the cover of Llewyn Davis and his dead singing partner’s record.

I believe the reason why folk music, and especially the singer song writer genre is so perfect for this movie is because one of the main themes is loneliness. Llewyn Davis is not a likeable person and because of that he is distant and cannot connect to anybody, so it would only make logical sense for this character to be a singer song writer who will refuse to have another partner even if it means he cannot have a career if he doesn’t. Folk also has a connotation of travel and a story like delivery that is perfect this Coen Brothers kinda-sorta road movie that almost flows like a story song about a sad and lonely man.

The biggest smash and probable best picture winner, 12 Years a Slave also contains music as a tool so that McQueen can properly portray this heavy novel written by the man who went through the whole ordeal. Music is involved in this gut wrenching film because the main character (Solomon Northup) is a professional fiddle player in Saratoga New York. In separate instances throughout the movie, he is given a fiddle as a present, breaks it in anger and is told to play it while a young woman slave is screaming in agony because she was hit in the face with a glass bottle. In many ways the fiddle is one of the largest symbols since it can symbolize so many things. It can symbolize his last cling to a society where these injustices are not done, but I think it just simply symbolizes his own society and heightened culture. Even in the North the life for men like Solomon was incredibly challenging. It was very difficult to be properly educated and therefore have enough money to live. While I am assuming most were suffering in Saratoga New York where Solomon lived, Solomon has a two story house a wife and two children. The reason why he has these things is because of his unique ability to play the fiddle. This signifies that Solomon was not only cultured and elevated compared to men of his own race, but he seemed like one of the most intelligent men in the city. This fact makes the later events even more horrendous since the audience knows that nobody, especially a man like of his intelligence should be degraded to such a low and torturous life. McQueen knew the heaviness of that detail and knew that the fiddle and Solomon’s love and talent for it would add another layer to an already impeccable movie.

A week from today I will be in Bakersfield California for the Great 48 Hour Jam. Along with picking till my fingers bleed, I will also be honored to be teaching a guitar workshop sometime that weekend. At this workshop I will be happy to show anybody anything they are interested in, whether it be chords, licks or anything else.


Ten Items - Brooks Judd

1.A fond farewell to 2013 and can anyone tell me what that was all about? It seems that the years keep on appearing with great promise, and then like a passing freight train they seem to depart off into the distance leaving nothing but a trace of smoke and a bevy of backed up cars">cars filled with anxious folks gazing at the departing train scratching their heads.

2. Americans enjoy Thanksgiving. A law was enacted so we could celebrate it on the third or fourth Thursday of the month in November. We like that. It makes for a long four day holiday and offers up an opportunity for our stretched out stomachs to slowly revert back to their pre holiday tautness.

Wouldn’t it be feasible to spend some quality time discussing the reality of setting aside the last Saturday and Sunday in December to observe Christmas?
I don’t know about you but having Christmas in the middle of the week throws off my internal clock and puts my mind and body into a jet lag mode. I really don’t know if I am coming or going and at my age that is not a good thing.

Businesses could give off the Friday before and the Monday after so Americans could enjoy a nice four day holiday with family and friends. I’m sending a proposal to our state representatives.

3. Red Dig Ash: My good friend Jason Winfrey of Red Dog Ash fame and noted philosophy professor at Stanislaus University in Turlock (head of his department) is not your basic bluegrass singer/songwriter/performer.

Jason is a native of West Virginia, and is a true dyed in the wool bluegrass purist. I have had the pleasure of playing music with Jason,listening to his high lonesome vocals accompanied by his exquisite guitar playing makes for interesting and enjoyable listening.

What makes Jason a bit more eclectic is his ability to discuss the history of existential philosophy while quoting Sartre, Camus, and Kirkegaard, and then in the next breath discuss in detail the backgrounds of Bill Monroe or the Country Gentlemen and what phase they were going through at the time.

4. Red Dog Ash has signed on to do one show a month at the Westside theater in Newman running January through May. What makes this more exciting is not only will Red Dog Ash be performing but a top name local group/act will be performing also.

January’s show will feature Red Dog Ash / The Sisters Grim: February’s show will be Red Dog Ash/Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players: March will be Red Dog Ash/The Central Valley Boys: April show will be Red Dog Ash/ Rock Ridge: May show TBA.

This is a wonderful opportunity for bluegrass fans">fans to view one if not all of these shows at the cozy West Side Theater. By attending a show you will not only be supporting our local bluegrass groups but you will be supporting bluegrass music in general and the West Side Theater. I urge all of you to be part of this bluegrass experiment.

5. Red Dog Ash has recently recorded an excellent bluegrass album,”Thin Red Line.” Their CD has 13 songs ALL written by members of Red Dog Ash.

Red Dog Ash is: Eli Arrigoti/ bass,dobro, lead and harmony vocals: Dixon Smith/ banjo,lead and harmony vocals/ Gary Vessel/mandolin,fiddle,lead and harmony vocals: Jason Winfree/guitar,lead and harmony vocals.

The group is from the Turlock/Modesto area and they have done an outstanding recording/mixing the CD.

Jason and Gary write the lion’s share of the songs and listening to the CD you would be hard pressed to think that these valley folks were not from Asheville or the backwoods of Kentucky.

Sheila and I received a bundle of joy last January a brand new beautiful granddaughter, Eliana Katherine. Watching her grow into a one year old smiling bundle of energy has kept all of us on our toes. Of course spending time with our rapidly growing three grandsons has kept Sheila and me in a state of euphoria and exhaustion. Jessica and Peter’s two sons spent a few days with us over the holidays, and today William be coming down from Woodland to spend a few days with Grumpy and Nana. Life doesn’t get much better than being able to enjoy your grandchildren.

Last week was a Fog Valley Drifters reunion at our guitar players home. I have not been with the group for about two years now and it was sure fun playing music with my mates. It was written that you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry…Well I sure do miss playing the bass with my bandmates.
Until February read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat a bar of chocolate and pray for rain.



THE DAILY GRIST…"Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic. The Bluegrass fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The Celtic fiddler inherited his from his mothers 2nd cousin in County Clare. The Old Time fiddler got theirs for $15 at a yard sale.”--The National Folk Festival of Australia by way of Bluegrass Nation

What the heck am I doing here?
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, January 2, 2014


As I have elaborated in the recent past, part of my off-season bass playing program is play in any jam I can. One of the opportunities I have is to fill in a couple of old time jams in Palo Alto. Barbara the regular bass player for these jams is very diligent in making sure the bass is covered if she is unavailable (which usually means she is playing somewhere else) and I get her first call. This was the case this past Monday and sure enough (just so we can keep the story going) I accepted and found my self in the bass spot in the jam.

As they say, “this wasn’t my first rodeo” and I knew many of the jammers from other circumstances but these old time jams prove to be somewhat of a challenge for me. Old time tunes tend to be modal. So simple yet so complex. Hearing chord changes beyond I, IV, V is not one of my strong suits">suits.

So what do I do, first of all I spend the entire jam staring at, in this order, guitar player hands and banjo player hands. This helps a lot. Not so much with fiddles or mandos.

The other thing I do is some research on the songs frequently called. Research means going to Pete Showman’s website at www.showman.org. Pete, who along with Richard Brooks is a driving force of the Santa Clara Valley Fiddlers Association, maintains an extensive list of old time songs on his site in fiddle notation but………very importantly chord changes. I know, I know you’re supposed to learn by hearing but I use any help I can. I have printed Pete’s songbook and carry it to the jam but little good it does me as half the time nobody calls the song title they just begin playing.

There I go rambling again. What I’m getting to is the question, do basses belong in old time music. I gave this question to my research assistant, you remember her, Oolga or something that. This is what Goolga came up with

A Celtic band never has a bass, while a Bluegrass band always has a bass. An old, Old Time band doesn’t have a bass, but new time Old Time bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear. A Bluegrass bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An Old Time bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on the player’s blood alcohol content. A Bluegrass bass is polished and shiny. An Old Time bass is often used as yard furniture">furniture. Bluegrass Nation April 2013

I guess the South Bay area is new time old time because there seems to be a bass player in the jams. I’m not complaining though because I get to play. It is whispered in bass player circles that the Berkeley and East Bay Old Time groups are old old time and don’t have bass players. Dang!!

It is already a tough for bass players in the jamming world. The never two of them in any jam rule is always in play. Look around at your jam. How many guitars do you see? How many banjos, mandos, fiddles? Even if there is not more than one of these instruments in the jam, more are usually welcome. Not us though. We like to say “it’s lonely at the bottom”.

Back to the question at hand, does a bass belong in old time? Who knows, there is probably a raging debate somewhere on the subject on some message board or forum page, probably a sort of a red state / blue state thing or treble clef / bass clef thing, I don’t know but I guess it doesn’t really matter, I got a call to come play bass at an old time jam and I went and had a great time playing and if the folks liked my playing well enough they might ask me back.

I got to run. I’m going to do some shedding on some “A” dorian tunes for the next old time opportunity. Tunes like “Cold Frosty Morning”, “Ducks on the Pond” and “Santa Anna’s Retreat”. Maybe I’ll get them next time.

I wish everyone a very a happy and prosperous new year. Don’t forget the SCVFA jam this Sunday at the Hoover Middle School in San Jose from 1:00 to 5:00. There will be some old time jamming there (just so you know, probably with a bass) along with some bluegrass and maybe some swing. Hope to see you there.
 
Posted:  4/22/2014 5:46:06 AM


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